#SuzyLFW Burberry: Riccardo Tisci’s Playful But Respectful Approach
After the last elegant, beige trench coat had left the wood-constructed Burberry stage – along with a newly designed logo on shirts; men in suits or in funky sportswear; and women in slithering black dresses – Riccardo Tisci, the new Chief Creative Officer at Burberry, explained his approach.
The intensely Italian designer, who spent his recent fashion career as Creative Director at Givenchy in Paris, offered his thoughts after a well-received, low-key but massive display of clothes – without his usual front row of celebrity friends such as Beyoncé or Kanye West. Nor were there the expected iconoclastic interventions from an official collaboration with forever-Punk, Vivienne Westwood.
Although there were a few funky elements, especially for men, references to Bambi were outdone by prints of Shakespearean characters, presented as if the Old Bard’s theatre programmes had been laundered on to the clothes.
Tisci, reminiscing on his student years at London’s Central Saint Martins in the Nineties, was reverential in his view of “Great Britain” – known more tersely in current usage as the “UK”. But Tisci knew that. He named the entire show “Kingdom”.
“It’s new Burberry, but keeping the heritage. I wanted a mix of things, like an essence, or like petrol,” said the designer backstage in the vast mail sorting office in Vauxhall, converted into a show space. His smooth working relationship with CEO Marco Gobbetti made the event seem streamlined and efficient.
“I have tried to build a wardrobe for mother and daughter and father and son – I want to show everything under the umbrella of Burberry,” Tisci continued, although instead of typically British rain, the show started with the roof opening dramatically to let in a flood of autumn sunlight.
Disney played a small role in the collection, with Bambi references appearing as clever tilts at the more stolid tailoring that opened the show. A classic British passport dangled from a chain as a sneaky reference to the current turmoil over Brexit and the country’s departure from the European Union.
But Tisci’s view of England was seen through rose-coloured spectacles of the past. He seemed wedded to the end of the Eighties and the Margaret Thatcher era, when women still followed Queen Elizabeth II’s style, wearing smart tailoring in town and Burberry raincoats. The beige jackets and slim skirts – and especially the Thatcher pussy bows at the neck – will now be seen in the international world of working women. There were enough jacket-and-skirt outfits in that section of the 134 Burberry outfits to fill any sophisticated closet.
But the designer’s real fetish is Punk, which a young Tisci experienced on his first visit to England at age 17 and once again when he was offered a scholarship to Saint Martin’s fashion school in the Nineties.
“I love music, I love rave, I love to follow DJs, but coming back this year I saw that this new generation of English boys and girls are different. They don’t like rock anymore, more things like rap, which is not British, but at the same time in the blood is the fact they are Punks,” Tisci said. “The way they approach fashion is very interesting, like using the clothes of their parents or mixing oversize with vintage, like they used to for Punk in the moment of revolution.”
In his 13 years at Givenchy, Tisci’s looks hovered between haute couture and rappers’ style, and he has shown a similar skill at Burberry. After a rather dull but utterly wearable display of men in suits (with a few little tricks like a truncated waistcoat across the chest), the menswear part of the show broke into something far more daring and cool than traditional “smart casual”. Baggy shirts with Bambi motifs, a trench patterned with graffiti and all sorts of story-telling objects plonked on the chest made that section a Wow! of millennial looks.
The women’s collection of clothes for hip kids was also well thought out, with a focus on skinny stretch leg warmers and mini skirts. Only a concluding line-up of slim black dresses, elegant and modern, seemed like an afterthought.
My memories of Riccardo Tisci go back a long way, to his very first show in Milan, when I found backstage a nervous young man lighting votive candles to pray for a successful show. I have since followed every single one of his shows and admired the see-saw of designs from this good Catholic and family man, whose mother has been to so many shows (including the new Burberry), who also has a wilder rock‘n’roll side. That has underlined so much of his work and made it vibrant and contemporary.
Perhaps because I am British, and living through the turmoil of Brexit and the despair of so many young people to pay for university education or to find a job, I found something missing from this Burberry celebration of “Britishness”. I was also there in the Eighties to see the flip side of Margaret Thatcher’s world, when fights with the trade unions turned off the country’s electricity and when despairing young people, with no jobs or money, spent hours creating aggressive hair-dos and torn clothes that became romanticised as “Punk”.
I also know that fading pictures of men in Burberry raincoats and army caps still sit on pianos and above fireplaces across the UK to remember those who died for their country.
Perhaps Tisci, after a year or so at Burberry, will take off those rose-tinted spectacles and develop this British-rooted brand on more 21st-century lines.