The buzz around the Burberry show in London yesterday evening was almost deafening as London fashion week geared up for what’s always its hottest ticket. And of course, the celebrities, the live orchestra, the first full see now-buy now collection, the combined men’s and women’s collections… it all added up to an ‘event’.
But what of the clothes? They were ‘nice’. Is that a criticism? I’m not sure. We’ve become used to Burberry shows making grand style statements, offering up very clear trends and throwing us a whole wardrobe of must-have/must-copy items.
But yesterday, the ‘September 2016’ collection felt less grand seasonal style statement and more special edition, designed to create a buzz in much the same way many limited edition retailer-designer collaboration collections do.
You find yourself in a mad frenzy of buying then a month later can’t work out why you thought those pyjamas or that frock coat were essentials. Of course, you could also be congratulating yourself on the fact that you nabbed the perfect knit, or a shirt that’ll carry you through the next decade until it literally falls to pieces.
But perhaps that’s the nature of a true see now-buy now collection. It can’t be a challenging trend statement on a grand scale because we don’t have time to think about it, build up the desire and ease ourselves into the new look. Instead we have to have something to which we can respond immediately and which, 15 hours later, those with the money have probably already ordered.
I wonder how many examples of the new Burberry Bridle Bag walk out of the stores yesterday or are winging their way to online customers as I write?
So, what did we get yesterday? A lot of individual pieces that Burberry aficionados will covet. The collection was inspired by Virginia Woolf and more specifically by Orlando, her androgynous long-lived hero/heroine.
So it took in Elizabethan ruff collars (simple in cotton but spectacular in snakeskin) and 1920s-inspired pyjama dressing, there were shirts with 18th century cravat necklines, intricately detailed 19th century cavalry officer jackets, capes with tassel trim, a big focus on sleeves (a shearling aviator jacket with bell sleeves was pretty amazing), tapestry fabrics and brocades… all with a very English edge.
There were some concessions to current trends. Those pyjamas for a start, plus the striped pants, rounded stud detailing, the skinny studded belt as the anchor item in almost every look, the focus on the sleeve as a key trend area (whether gathered from the shoulder or flaring out from elbow or wrist level), the loose trench coats, the khaki military jackets, the bags with chunky shoulder straps or disproportionately sized chain handles. The list could go on.
Actually, on reflection, there was a lot to like despite most of the excitement being about the event rather than the clothes. And a lot to like is what Burberry needs at the moment. While the business is far from struggling, it is facing a weaker luxury market and a growth slowdown that means generating a buzz around the brand is essential. It certainly achieved that yesterday.