In his first address to investors in May, new Burberry chief executive Jonathan Akeroyd said he wanted to return to highlighting Burberry’s Britishness. It was a departure from the strategy laid down five years ago by his predecessor Marco Gobbetti and chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci, who wanted to position Burberry as a more international brand.
There was a certain logic to it then — Brand Britain had lost a fair bit of its lustre in the wake of the Brexit vote, and here was a company that wanted to open borders, not close them. But it has also meant, over time, that Burberry has lost its link to the one thing that set it apart from every other major luxury brand. It has become more like everything else, and its performance in recent years has lagged behind larger European rivals such as LVMH, Kering and Chanel.
At any rate, Tisci got Akeroyd’s memo. In a show originally meant to bow during London Fashion Week but postponed on account of the Queen’s death, the Italian designer took over a south London warehouse to present a spring/summer 2023 collection inspired by the British seaside and the “different ideas and ideals of Britishness through dress”, he wrote in his show notes.
It is the styles of the British elite that tend to inspire designers here — think of Erdem or SS Daley, or Tisci’s predecessor Christopher Bailey — but Tisci was clearly looking elsewhere on the beach. Accompanied by the mournful soprano voice of opera singer Nadine Sierra, models walked out in tailoring that was less Vita Sackville-West and more utilitarian — suits cut from blue denim and washed gabardine with big pockets and soft, seamless shoulders; a semi-sheer tank dress in Burberry plaid, layered over a white vest; oversized mesh tees and sweatshirts with gothic lettering for men.
These were followed by long-sleeved and belted swimsuits layered over matching skirts cut to highlight the crotch and the backs and sides of hips. For evening there were lingerie-style dresses of silk, crumpled as if they’d just been picked up off the floor, some with Ferris wheels embroidered over the breasts; and a trio of padded black velvet dresses that looked as if their sleeves and low necklines had been pumped with air (something Moschino’s Jeremy Scott also did this season as a camp riff on inflation).
Burberry has successfully expanded its handbag offer over the past five years, and here models carried large backpacks and compact rectangular bags worn, unmissably, like pool floaties on each arm. On their feet were simple black thong sandals, some with pool-float-style nozzles between the toes — Kanye West arrived in a glittering pair.
Together, it was a laudably expansive view of Britishness, but it did not result in very attractive clothes. A decade ago, luxury shoppers turned to Burberry for a well-made trench and an aspirational vision of Britain. It is hard to imagine them wanting to buy into this.
Lauren Indvik is the FT’s fashion editor
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Source: Financial Times