Tisci’s Burberry has something for everyone, but will it work?
The Burberry SS19 catwalk presentation was both epic in proportion – 133
looks! – and epic in transformation. Held at a cavernous former Royal Mail
warehouse in Vauxhall, guests were kept in the dark until the roof
retracted and in flooded the English Indian summer rays of light. A more
apt start to a new fashion era for the British luxury brand couldn’t have
been asked for.
What is clear, Riccardo Tisci means to dress everyone: young, old,
sophisticates, club kids, punks, and anyone in between. It was a broad
gesture both bold and preposterous, but so much of current day’s fashion
propositions are. The show was split into three parts to embrace the all
encompassing; starting with tailoring, then streetwear, and closing with
The trench and house check remain the codes of the house
The first looks were the amongst the strongest. The reworking of the iconic
trench felt fresh, this time sans floppy-haired Bloomsbury type
inspiration. So much of what has come to describe Burberry – the English
eccentric, the countryside chic – appears to be a thing of the past.
The deconstructed check into stripes were a winner
Tisci did well with deconstructing the check into stripes, which were dyed
onto silk and cotton, as seen on a woman’s pussybow blouse and men’s terry
shorts. The new Thomas Burberry logo designed by Peter Saville that was
revealed early August made several outings, both as a blouse, or the silk
lining of a wool blazer with juxtaposed print. These were commercial
items, the checks, stripes and logo will sell, as witnessed with the
company’s strategy to drop ship throughout the season.
Fifty shades of beige
Burberry owns beige, though in the past it was perhaps the colour
associated with its trench coats. But now it felt as a palette it could
take ownership of. It was a win for Tisci, who’s beige was both modern and
refined. It was seen predominantly in daywear and outerwear, like a fluid
knife-pleated dress worn over a slim pant with an orange tuxedo contrast.
In menswear a luxe single-breasted coat and Harrington jacket stood out.
Tailored silhouettes were neat, oversizing was left to streetwear
There was suiting for both sexes, but here too the silhouettes were
refined: slim trousers and blazers neatly cut. There was, thankfully, no
trace of the oversized menswear blazer or exaggerated shoulder that has
been paraded to death.
Too many options muddied the second half
The collection got into complex waters in its second act, which was focused
on streetwear. Here there were too many options, ideas and random looks,
which a tighter show edit could have avoided. There were photo prints and
quotes on t-shirts – one odd look had the word cow emblazoned on a black
tee teamed with a calf print skirt, accessorised with bondage (or bungy
jumping) straps. Men’s trousers were straight and long, perhaps not so
flattering for the sophisticated customer it aimed to attract in the first
part of the show. These looks acted as a reminder of Tisci’s life as a
twenty-something student on the London scene. Capes, buckles and clunky
Mary Jane shoes were the dominant accessories, though none of them stood
out as must-haves.
The end of the show saw Tisci introduce a new evening wear category,
something the Burberry of yore was less focused on. A series of black
column dresses closed the presentation, which Tisci explained to the New
York Times that Burberry wasn’t just about one identity, but rather could
propose multitudes; for mothers and daughters, fathers and sons.
Can fashion be all things to all people?
And herein lies the problem. Being all things to all people does not a
fashion brand make. While it is easy to critique a humdrum of a look, and
most designers have a least one catwalk look that is up for that debate, it
is far more challenging to be the go-to outfitter for a demographic that
includes all of mankind. There isn’t a single brand where the club kids,
the gentry, the young and old, the sophisticates, the skater girls, the
outsiders and business folks all come to shop. Not even Uniqlo can claim
that moniker with its Lifewear.
Tisci knows a thing or two about streetwear, and at Givenchy he brought an
admirable direction that saw the brand embrace a darkly sensuous, gothic
luxury, bringing the company kudos and profits from near bankruptcy in
2005. So too there is that customer that will follow him to Burberry.
The heritage and draw of Burberry the brand extends far beyond the check
and far beyond the trench, but Tisci will have to pick his battles. So far
he debuted a modern day, multi layered fashion proposition, let’s see which
direction it takes.
Photo credit: Burberry SS19 show, source Burberry website; Foto 2: Burberry SS19 © Catwalkpictures.com