#SuzyLFW: Burberry’s Heritage Revisited
Ever since Burberry folded its vast tent which it would plant in London’s Royal Parks and fill with international stars, the brand has taken a grittier stand.
Last season, this very different take on England was seen in a display of sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and artisans showing their work to the public in a crumbling former book store, now demolished.
Now Burberry has moved on to another historic building, a restored court house in East London where the old stone walls carried images taken by British photographers. Despite a raucous demonstration by an anti-fur group (although Burberry is built on raincoats and did not use fur) the message from the designer came across.
“I wanted it to be a bit more honest, less polished with a bit more rawness, with working class gritty, generally Northern urban images,” said Burberry designer Christopher Bailey. “I had been looking at all these images and started to build a picture of what I wanted the collection to be. And I liked the grandeur of this building. It is a lot of what we’re trying to say in the collection – a bit of grandeur, but also it’s broken down with age.”
Describing the show as “a real, organic collection,” not one grown from a particular image, the Burberry aesthetics were divided into different images, but not necessarily between the male and female clothes, that were shown together. The most evident was the latest twist on Burberry raincoats – the company’s 19th-century starting point.
This season the coats came in colourful, semi-sheer rubbery material that seemed to be plastic in spite of Burberry’s tip towards luxury. In soft colours, but with that faint suggestion of sex that emanates from rubbery clothing, these raincoats seemed more 21st century than a scattering of the brand’s familiar check raincoats.
Yet Bailey’s explanation linked the waterproof material to history. “I found these fantastic images of women on Greenham Common wearing plastic, literally plastic,” said Bailey, referring to the anti-nuclear women’s peace camp in England founded in the 1980s.
“They were covering themselves from the rain,” the designer continued. “And I liked the idea that there are other ways of talking about protection and of standing for something and questioning our identity.”
Another element was knits, colourful and patterned, representing Scottish style, even when mixed with lace as well as tartan. A reference to Burberry’s historical link with the British army came in a bold mini skirt made to look like a repurposed formal uniform jacket. Like most of the see-now-buy-now Burberry online offerings, that skirt cost nearly £2,000 and was nearly sold out within hours of the show. So were diamante jewels, bold and sparkling for both sexes, adding yet another clash of texture and context.
Ironically, considering Bailey’s explanation of his vision, the general feeling of this collection was of polish. With celebrities in the front row, including newly hired British Vogue contributing editors Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, this show did not seem so earthy.
Yet the photographic exhibition, held mostly by pinning images to the raw walls, brought a keeping-it-real spirit to the show. The 200 images from celebrated British 20th-century photographers form Here We Are curated by Christopher Bailey, Lucy Kumara Moore and Alasdair McLellan.
The exhibition is open to the public from 18 September – 1 October, 2017 at Old Sessions House, 22 Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0NA.