On The Border

The setting is rather otherworldly, a forbidding suburbia, but Riccardo Tisci’ Burberry is not for children of a dystopia

Burberry must believe that the majority of those who watch their livestream do so on their smartphones. It’s probably true. The brand’s spring/summer 2022 show is not only optimised for phone viewing, it seems to be filmed specifically for broadcasting to phone users, or TikTok habitués. Rather than in landscape orientation, the show is streamed in portrait. When you rotate your phone, the screen keeps (largely) to the north-south sizing. This is also rather true if you watch it on your notebook: to meet the landscape view, the image is half of the portrait! Even when you click your web browser to full screen, nothing is changed. Watching on the smart phone, especially in 21:9 screen ratio, is truly a reminder that fashion has become a digital experience, involving just the viewer alone, even when we’re told that it’s all IRL again. You can watch shows on the MRT train or in bed, even in the wee hours of the morning.

In terms of the feel of the presentation, the women’s is rather similar to the men’s presentation in June. Desolation is the setting. There is barely any soundtrack except the ambient sounds and, when the scene shifts to a sort of dance club (youth?!), music to move enthusiastically to. Multiple is the setting, from sand mounds in some void deck to empty echo-y rooms to corridors with speakers on one side to that packed dance space (a message there?!), where even the large, floppy-eared (no idea why some models need the prosthetic) can move un-hassled. The clothes do not seem to have anything to do with the somewhat cold surroundings: they are far less apocalyptic-seeming, more an exploration—a metamorphosis, even—of the things women might wish to wear when the pandemic is finally over, without stripping down to the underclothes. Which is understandable because, according to the show notes, Riccardo Tisci dedicated the collection to his mother.

If Christopher Bailey modernised the Burberry trench coat in the early 2000s and turned it into a fashionable staple, Mr Tisci has now made it sexy. They are, in fact, not kept whole: sleeves are removed, collars too, and in quite a few styles, the back—yes, entire backs! Deconstructed would be a strong word to use here (you can trace the garment to its original silhouette), but there is clearly a reimagining of what the trench coat could be used for. They could be worn as a dress, for instance, and with the rounded shoulders, look like a dress. And if you think that the Burberry trench coat is still too traditional for you, Mr Tisci dishes up some with geometric shapes on them, which could be discreet applications of tone on tone or something more eye-catching (that is key, isn’t it, when we embrace social gathering enthusiastically, again?), with contrasting colours of black and white on the more trad khaki. A garment can be so strikingly and effectively transformed.

Geometrical shapes are seemingly a new obsession with Mr Tisci, as if he was recently given a set square and a compass, and he is rediscovering the joy of their use. Curved shapes—that include the elliptic and parabolic—abound. Some are used symmetrically, and in sum look like creatures wearing gas masks or full-face respirators (did we also see a burka?). Some are more random in composition (abstract, really) and, in black and white, look like those on cows, but designed by man, not nature. Layered asymmetry is strong too. Sheer fabrics (netting?) over more shapes and, in some, with text (one reads “universal sports”). A low-front tailored gilet is a cape at the rear, a poncho has a vertical hoodie centre front and back, a top that looks like a blazer on the lower right half is a throw on the opposite end on the left. Relatively modest is the collection of 52 styles, but no doubt, visually compelling. And, best of all, there is a lot to see.

Photos: (top) Zhao Xiangji and (runway) Burberry

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