And checks too. Daniel Lee’s debut at the British house pointed to a cool Burberry again
We were up at four this morning to watch the livestream on our phone of what was surely the most anticipated show that closed the five-day London Fashion Week. It was hard to rise at that hour, so we remained in bed, watching the non-action of the attendees filling up the space. Twenty six to five, when we were fiercely resisting going back to sleep, it began—in a dark, set-less, well-attended tent, erected in St Agnes Place, once a squatter street in Kensington, South London, that had amazingly resisted eviction for more than 30 years. It is a different place today, mostly residential, and now a venue for the city’s most important people watching the UK’s most important luxury label’s autumn/winter presentation. Daniel Lee’s debut was expected to generate tremendous buzz, possibly even more than his first show at Bottega Veneta, where he suddenly left the brand in November 2021 amid rather strange circumstances. Now that he is back, on home turf, no less, was it as good as many had expected it to be. Was it the turning point Burberry anxiously needed? Did we waste our sleep for this touted-to-be-history-making moment?
It was not immediately clear that history was made. Perhaps we were too groggy to discern. The show, even just one-minute in, was admittedly a stark contrast to Riccardo Tisci’s debut for the house back in 2018. Then, Mr Tisci wanted a collection that catered to more than a group of customers: “all-generations”, as it was reported. His multi-part show, set on a polished, raised runway, offered that much, but said very little that we can now remember, except that everything was not as cool as it was expected. Or, it was, to us, not very British—eccentric even less. If we had wanted Italian sleekness, we would not have been eyeing a British heritage label. Mr Lee, too, appeared to try to cater to not one particular target. There were, similarly, rather many looks—for usually-forward indie musicians, football stars with money but not necessarily taste, the rich kids of celebs (the Beckhams?), the edgy folks who shop in Dover Street Market, tourists who must bring home a bit of the Britannic, and yes, even the chavs of the early 2000s (only now less brash or gaudy?). The clothes were not daringly innovative, but, in the styling that hinted at a certain uppity insouciance, coveted cool did come across, calculatedly.
Apparently Mr Lee was looking at archival material that did not only come from within Burberry. Sure, there was the trench, and there were the checks (but not those with the black and red lines against a beige background), now blown up so massively—and applied diagonally and in vibrant hues—that you might not have recognised them, but there were others not necessarily associated with the heritage details, such as, fur. Back in 2018, Burberry apparently put the breaks on the use of the real stuff. So it could be assumed that those employed here on the clothes and the accessories (that mop of a trapper hat!) were faux, including some destined-to-be-a-hit fox tail danglies (should that be swinggies?). The most obvious comeback was the Burberry logo of the galloping knight. It too was scaled up and was so massive that it became a lone rider on an asymmetric dress, or a wool blanket. Englishness would not be quite so without the English rose (both flower and woman). But, as Mr Lee would have it, “A Rose Isn’t Always…Red”. So that declaration and a rose in blue or green(!) appeared on a long-sleeved T-shirt, it’s best-seller status concurrently announced. And, by not always, he rather meant it. Prints of roses were in black and, erm, brown.
Despite the varied looks, all sufficiently swish and handsome, it was hard to determine if they would, as of now, bring Burberry somewhere, anywhere. Wearable clothes were aplenty (and a clutch of the not-so—the pair with chicken feathers, for example), but we did not sense they were directional, at least not sufficiently to help us determine where Burberry would go henceforth. Too curated? There was something reminiscent of Mr Lee’s first runway show for Bottega Veneta in 2019. Some silhouettes were reprised, as did shots of colour. The media back then was happy to say that he was enticing the old Céline customer. Now, with Phoebe Philo’s return very near, surely Mr Lee no longer needed to repeat the past luring. Back in South London, one unexpected accessory (a category expected to expand in size) that appeared repeatedly was the hot water bottle (even the guests received one, placed on their seat). The models held them close to their bodies, or chests. Did the fabric-wrapped, flat flasks aid us in allowing the collection to warm the cockles of our heart, to use a phrase now associated with one Sengkang MP? We may have to wait and see. Coolness is better cool.
Screen shot (top): Burberry. Photos: gorunway.com