Burberry on the beach in Bermondsey
Riccardo Tisci took Burberry to the beach on Monday, in a show the house rescheduled due to the monarch’s recent passing. Though the seaside theme took place in Bermondsey, south London, and not Brighton or Bournemouth.
Riccardo’s concept: the beach as a democratic leveller of British cultures and communities.
There were certainly plenty of sandy shades in the opening looks with floor length swirling skirts, or on Naomi Campbell, in a desert hued safari jacket over a schoolmarm skirt.
Throughout his tenure, Tisci has played cleverly with the house’s plaid and this season was no exception - showing dark mud, slate gray and black combinations - made in materials like lace and waxed cotton. Composed into urban warrior parkas, lace blouses, layered chiffon skirts and even curious necklaces finished with three plaid pockets.
In keeping with the seaside theme, models wore four-inch long shark earrings; or seashell studs on mannish beach sandals. Riccardo will always love a graphic top, this season finished with giant sharks’ mouths or evil eyes.
Plenty of denim, and most of it carefully sun-bleached - overalls paired with silver sequin bras, Victorian skirts, sleeveless shirts. A Victoria mood that extended into some great bodycon Gothic evening dresses of layered satin and chiffon. In a coed show, the guys were gifted great tailoring, notably an eight-button blazer, with the top two buttons on the lapels. Often in black, though two in Ukrainian yellow and pale blue.
“This collection is inspired by the beach as a place where humanity meets, a point where different worlds collide. That tension between dressing and undressing, between revelation and protection, underwear and outerwear, all feels relevant to now and part of Burberry’s modern DNA,” argued Riccardo in his program notes.
Not all Tisci’s experiments worked, another half dozen columns with swimwear inserted featured cut-outs at the crotch and hips that looked faintly daft. You could see from the models’ expressions they probably agreed. Like many Tisci shows, this one also rambled, with 81 looks, that could have done with a good edit to make his statement more focused.
Yet, on a chilly morning, Burberry’s pulling power was still evident from the front row. Gillian Anderson was posing with Simone Ashley, the heroine of Bridgerton's second series, while Kanye West sat near Milly Alcock, the minute star of House of the Dragon.
Ashley wore a black soft collared Burberry shirt dress reading from the abyss with love, over check gloves and dominatrix boots. Alcock came in a white and silver plastic and metal flapper's dress under a black trench coat. Both the two fashion ingenue actresses embraced Tisci warmly in the backstage, as did Kanye.
The house had originally scheduled to stage the show on Saturday, September 17, though cancelled following the Queen’s passing a week before the show.
Burberry had planned to build a catwalk with an orchestra in Trafalgar Square. However, the idea that a brand with a royal warrant would stage a show so close to Buckingham Palace in a week of mourning for the monarch was clearly impossible. Leading CEO Jonathan Akeroyd made a smart, immediate executive decision.
Asked about recent rumours that Burberry had held talks with Daniel Lee, the former acclaimed designer of Bottega Veneta, about possibly replacing Tisci next year, CEO Akeroyd replied, narrow eyed: “I have nothing to say about that.”
Though the executive, who only joined in April, appeared in an ebullient mood. As well he should. In the most recent financial year, sales grew by 21% to £2.8 billion as Burberry emerged from the pandemic.
Tisci’s contract is reportedly up for renewal next year, but if he does leave Burberry he can hold his head up high. While his shows have not received universal acclaim, he has certainly produced an important body of work, and some very beautiful products. Again this season with an impressive new bag in plaid or woven leather, which can slide up the forearms to look like cool armour.
Moreover, Burberry remains the pre-eminent British luxury brand, with four giant electronic billboards greeting travellers at British Airways Terminal 5 at Heathrow.
Bizarrely, considering Burberry had hired the London Contemporary Orchestra, which played an original composition for a quarter of an hour as guests arrived, the models walked in almost continuous silence. Giving the event an oddly "fin de siècle" funeral mood, which some might interpret as an omen for the future.
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