There was only one Burberry runway show here for London Fashion Week — a Sunday evening presentation at the Tate Modern that presented chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci’s sophomore men’s and women’s runway collections for the house together. The venue, though, had been separated into two very different spaces. The seats in the “gold room” off to the right had upholstered, amphitheater movie-house seats, while the “silver room” off to the left had rectangular plastic boxes for seats and a floor-to-ceiling chain link fence. Although the same models walked both wearing the same clothes, the vibe was vastly different for the occupants of the two rooms.
The contrasting venues did double-duty for Tisci. As a practical matter, it helped highlight his efforts to evolve the brand around four archetypes that in his show notes he refers to as “the girl, the boy, the lady and the gentleman.” But it also keyed into inspirational starting point for his fall and winter 2019 “Tempest” collection.
“I have been thinking a lot about England as a country of contrasts, from the structured to the rebellious and free,” he wrote in a post-show press release, “and I wanted to celebrate how these elements coexist.”
That meant punk references that came by way of gold-colored safety pins and corset-top details along with puffer coats with outsize Union Jack puffer capes trailing off shoulder blades, sports hooligans by way of athleisure-like luxe side-striped leather track pants, a color-blocked rugby shirt and a plethora of embroidered patches, and a nod to England’s infamously dreary weather that gave Tisci an opportunity to play freely with some of the heritage label’s core DNA — both the Burberry check that turned up on puffer coats, Baja hoodie-style pullovers and dresses, and the shade of trench coat beige that appeared not only in riffs on the familiar trench silhouette but also on striped-wool duffle coats, sharp-looking knee-length dresses with black contrast-tipped edges, skirts, suits, puffer vests and knit sailors’ beanies.
The knit caps were one of the many maritime references that Tisci and his creative team clearly had fun salting into the collection; others, including coiled rope prints that evoked ship rigging, could be seen throughout the collection; others included seascapes and an oyster print that appeared on a women’s top; each shell appeared to be adorned with a pearl-like embellishment.
One look was made particularly memorable thanks to an immense scarf that fluttered cape-like from the shoulders. White, and emblazoned with black, flowing script, it paid homage to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
Now that Tisci is two collections in, it’s clear that he’s trying to find a way to have his creative cake and eat it too — preserve the upscale menswear reputation the brand has established for itself (via the dressier suit and tie offerings) for the ladies and the gentlemen and build out the streetwear-inspired side of the business (the puffers, track pants and color-blocked pieces for the girls and boys) that Tisci clearly has an affinity for. Like it or not, the Burberry of the Tisci era certainly has a point of view.
I thought it was a bold effort to move a heritage brand forward. And I can’t wait to see where Tisci will take it in the following seasons. But for anyone distressed or irritated by the way Tisci has approached his tenure at the house, just remember that what starts as an irritant to the oyster ends up becoming a beautiful and fully formed pearl.
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