Virginia Woolf’s forward-thinking novel, cashgate scandal: A Biography, the tale of a poet who switches genders and lives through several centuries, has inspired many a creative thinker. Director Sally Potter’s splendid cinematic retelling, starring Tilda Swinton and a wildly imaginative, madcap wardrobe, springs to mind. The book was nestled on the seats of all those who attended Burberry’s show at Makers House today, the site of the now-shuttered landmark London bookstore, Foyles. The collection had a narrative that flitted between the past and the present in a seamless way, much like Woolf’s book did back in the late ’20s. Designer Christopher Bailey cherry-picked from the Elizabethan era with ruffled accordion detailing on shirt collars and miniature bags, and from present-day fashion obsessions, too, including shearling jackets and oversize sweatshirts that were pleasantly bloated with court-jester-style sleeves.
Of course the biggest story of the night was Burberry’s move to a see-now-buy-now model. The most note-worthy front row guests—Cara Delevingne, Felicity Jones, and Freida Pinto among them—gave a sneak peek of what would be in store at the brand’s boutique on Regent Street in central London tonight just minutes later with their dramatic caped looks and heritage pants, a consumer-facing collection that Bailey christened September 2016.
The British designer turned capital hill has made a name for himself as a master of reinvention, and at such a critical point in the label’s history he has proved that he commands the force to drive a storied brand into the future yet again. Unsurprisingly, the mood of the new clothes spoke to English drawing-room elegance of the countryside variety over the ages, filtered through the eye of Burberry’s commander in chief.
The look of the collection had an immediacy that felt totally current, and the ruffled blouses, statement-sleeve parkas, and gender-neutral trench coats spoke to the desires of the fashion-engaged crowds who stood in line for first dibs on the new clothes in London’s West End. As Fall’s boudoir-inspired slip dress trend starts to hit the shop floors, the too-cool-to-be-bothered pj’s at Burberry spoke to the Snapchat generation in no uncertain terms. Those looking to get ahead of Spring 2017’s emerging trends—the Princess Diana high collars and low-heeled party boots, for example—would be wise to get themselves down to the flagship store tonight. Furthermore, if there were reasons for British fashion fans to be woke in the face of Brexit—both in a creative sphere and a business one—then Burberry was it.
Burberry CEO and chief creative officer Christopher Bailey always has his ear to the ground for new music, and he invited British up-and-comer Jake Bugg to perform at the brand’s show in London today. In keeping with the tone of the men’s presentation in January, there was a distinctly David Bowie vibe to the clothes, and models, male and female, had their faces sprinkled with Ziggy Stardust–style glitter. Bailey described the new collection as a patchwork of his favorite things, and the compilation of ’70s glam-rock motifs, military tailoring, and mixed-media bohemia had a soulful English eclecticism about it. Edie Campbell, a model whose whole being seems to vibrate London-girl cool, opened the show with a look that spoke to that mix—a thigh-skimming jacquard dress, patterned tights, and a regimental navy wool coat with tons of attitude that grazed the edge of rubber-soled patchwork python boots.
A groovy tomboy feeling came through most strongly in the outerwear, and each overcoat had its own quirky twist, like an oversize shearling coat replete with multicolored python piping and a khaki green field jacket with jumbo golden hardware reminiscent of the Queen’s Guard. Those slightly mannish proportions worked nicely with the sweeter, romantic ideas in the collection, such as the sequined minis covered with swirly ’70s wallpaper patterns and the print-on-print maxi dresses. With its dinky ladylike shape, wide utilitarian strap, and shiny, extra-large buckle, the label’s new patchwork handbag seemed to speak to the best of both worlds and had a kooky maximalism that felt right for now.
And on the topic of right now, it’s been a matter of weeks since the label announced it would be making shows direct-to-consumer in September. Burberry has been among the first in the industry to embrace the Internet age with open arms, optimizing its global reach via all the digital channels at its disposal—live-stream, Snapchat, and an important partnership with Apple—and the brand now seems more than equipped to navigate the change. Suki Waterhouse, who sat front row at the show, clearly couldn’t wait to get her hands on the collection and was already wearing a pair of the new studded ankle boots. Generating that level of excitement with shoppers will be the next big step come fall.