CEO Letter | Kingdom Come at Burberry
Riccardo Tisci’s debut collection for Burberry. London Fashion Week, Spring Summer ’19 by Helen Brocklebank.
Replacing Christopher Bailey at Burberry can’t have been a walk in the park, even for a megastar creative like Riccardo Tisci. After all, for more than 17 years, Bailey transformed Burberry into a multi-billion pound superbrand, with a creative vision that defined a uniquely British sensibility and took it to every corner of the world. When Tisci’s appointment was announced in March this year, perhaps it was inevitable that certain eyebrows were raised at the idea that an outsider – albeit one of impeccable creative calibre – could be the next custodian of the totemic British luxury fashion house. But the proof of the pudding is always in the eating and yesterday afternoon, in a former sorting office in Nine Elms, Tisci’s triumphant debut collection set an exhilarating new direction for Burberry’s onward journey.
In a show called ‘Kingdom’, Tisci’s Burberry celebrated “the diversity and the heart of England… the melting pot of creativity and style traditions…[and]…the breadth of what British culture represents today”. Tisci showed he is an adept post-modern bricoleur, selecting the British cultural codes that most interest him, and it’s testament to his considerable talent that he was able to pull these things off with such panache, particularly when it comes to playing with the sumptuary laws of British social class: the quilted jacket and pussy-bow blouse of a country lady and the sportswear of the urban street-wise were all reborn as inventive and covetable fashion – as one might expect from a designer who has proven himself the master of travelling effortlessly between high and low – haute-couture and street – and back again.
It was clear Tisci had devoted time and thought to reinvigorating the house codes and offering a fresh take on the iconic heritage of the brand, as some of the intriguing glimpses into the archive posted on Instagram in recent weeks have signalled. The new Peter Saville brand ID, inspired by a 1908 logo and a Thomas Burberry monogram, had been deftly worked into the collection, from the silk monogram shirt and quilted jacket worn by Stella Tennant in the show to a men’s monogram-printed cut-work blouson worn over a heritage check shirt. Heritage check was used adroitly, but also pushed to work harder – I loved it woven into a chic British tweed coat in camel, black and scarlet or deconstructed into a stripe on a pair of men’s jersey shorts. The trench coat was referenced in dozens of clever, occasionally provocative, ways – not least the statement made by opening the show with a trench corseted with a wide chocolate-coloured belt and worn over a blue monogram shirt dress or Kendall Jenner in a classic gabardine embellished with the gilt chains that always feel like a Tisci signature or with inset silk scarves, as worn by Irina Shayk. Burberry’s roots as an outerwear brand found a new interpretation in some strong menswear looks – umbrella holsters worn over his sharp new suits, made to his new tailoring block, or a shiny black PVC sou’wester and cape were perhaps an irreverent Tisci nudge at the British obsession with the weather.
Nor was he shy of subtle political statement, particularly when it came to Brexit – several of the models sported burgundy passports on a kind of lanyard, and the KIN in Kingdom, the title of the show, was printed on several of the looks, and if that was to stress the bonds that bring us together are so much more important than those that keep us apart, the message rang home, loud and true.
Presented in three parts – Refined, Relaxed and Evening – and 134 looks, the show took us on a finely plotted sartorial journey through the depth and breadth of new era Burberry. Uber-luxe day-wear both for men and for women was elegant and demurely sexy; perfectly underscoring Mr Gobbetti’s strategic vision to elevate the house to true luxury. Relaxed offered a cooler, younger rebellious vibe, perfect for the Tisci #SQUAD and inspired by Tisci’s impressions of his time in London as a student in the early nineties. The show finished with Evening wear – it wouldn’t be a Tisci show without black but here, rather than the darkly gothic romance he’s most associated with, he gave us smoulderingly sophisticated columns of form-fitting jersey as perfect for after dark dinner dressing as for the red carpet.
I expected it to be clever and maverick. I expected a fresh new take on the Burberry house codes. I expected the iconoclastic and the gritty (is it even possible these days to interpret Britishness without a nod to the cultural impact of punk?). I hadn’t expected it to be so utterly beautiful.
Welcome to the new Burberry Kingdom.