Christopher Bailey was feeling crafty. Quilted Indian cotton prints, examples of which had been found in Burberry’s Durham workshops; patchwork suedes all whip-stitched together in muted greens and lilacs; and mirrored embroideries (like the ones you find in Moroccan souks) had all combined to create his vision of “patchwork, pattern and prints”.
Never mind the live-stream online audience of billions, or the 2.7m Instagram followers and 3.6m on Twitter; the CEO/CCO master of all Burberry ceremonies wanted to exercise a languorous approach to the AW15 collection’s construction.
“I liked the idea of folk crafts and hours of labour, the practice of making things by hand,” Bailey said of his colourful quilted trenchcoats and bodiced gowns. “I wanted to use a patchwork of materials and techniques.”
There were interesting contradictions here: a stiff leopard clutch with a gauzy skirt; spike-heeled fringe boots with woven ponchos; suede fringed coats and shearlings worn with whisper-thin cottons. Some of the juxtapositions jarred a little but Bailey was adamant the contradictions were part of his fascination with the “quick, quick, slow, slow” mentality that he has brought to the brand.
Staged in a gigantic marquee set squarely in Perk’s Field, Kensington Palace Gardens, before a starry front row of celebrities including actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, photographer Mario Testino, multi-Grammy-winning singer Sam Smith and Burberry’s current campaign faces Kate Moss, Jourdan Dunn and Naomi Campbell (who appeared in her seat as if by magic about halfway through the show), the show’s bombast was as blasting as ever. But there was a new softness to these clothes that will be interesting to see when they are amid the polished granite settings of Burberry’s flagship stores.
Was Bailey concerned by the apparent conflict in aesthetics — all that folksiness for such a hard-edged brand? Not really, he said. And it seems no one else is either: the company’s share price has risen since Bailey’s appointment as chief executive last May and revenues have increased 17 per cent year on year to £2.3bn in the last financial year.
The brand is getting increasingly tech-savvy. Every piece seen on the runway is now available online (bar a giant, mirror-embroidered poncho that required more work than e-gratification could happily ensure). Their edge is found in a cutting-edge delivery system.
Which raises the question: are there waiting lists in e-commerce? If so, I predict a long virtual line of folky fans looking for those thigh-high patchwork boots.
For more reports from the London shows, go to our fashion weeks page on the FT web app, or visit our AW2015 fashion weeks hub on FT.com