Burberry’s 50 shades of the Bri­tish bour­geoisie

In one of the most an­tic­i­pated re­veals in the world of fash­ion, Burberry’s Ric­cardo Tisci un­veiled his first col­lec­tion for S/S19. And it was quite the dis­creet pro­duc­tion

Emirates Woman - - Contents - WORDS: VANESSA FRIED­MAN

In a cav­ernous for­mer Royal Mail ware­house south of the Thames in Lon­don, where lux­ury de­vel­op­ments were built in an­tic­i­pa­tion of an in­flux of for­eign money that never ma­te­ri­alised, and af­ter a long buildup of teasers – a new, Pop-tas­tic Peter Sav­ille logo; a Dhs1,430 lim­ited drop T-shirt; Bey­oncé in be­spoke wear at her re­cent con­cert in Hous­ton – Ric­cardo Tisci, the chief cre­ative of­fi­cer of Burberry, fi­nally un­veiled his first col­lec­tion for the brand. There was not a sin­gle celebrity in the au­di­ence. But still, the earth be­gan to move. Ac­tu­ally, that’s not true (though it was fun to write). It was the ceil­ing, as metal slats drew back to let the sun­shine in. Fash­ion has never been afraid to em­brace a some­what ob­vi­ous metaphor. And what did the light il­lu­mi­nate? It was a show in three acts (five, if you count the men’s and women’s di­vi­sions), of­fi­cially ti­tled King­dom, though it could eas­ily have been ‘Burberry As You Like It.’ Begin­ning with Act I: 50 shades of the Bri­tish bour­geoisie, star­ring the trench.

Trenches came with wide, corset-like elas­ti­cated waists, and rein­vented as an A-line skirt. They came lined in a sig­na­ture plaid, and they came dan­gling pearls. They came with silk scarves emerg­ing from the seams like rib­bons, and mixed with logo-prints and swing­ing pleated skirts. They came for men, along with neat struc­tured tai­lor­ing and nar­row trousers, pin­striped suits with con­trast pip­ing, and cross­body chains sling­ing um­brel­las in­stead of swords across the back. The fab­rics were lush, the ac­ces­sories (belts! bags!) plen­ti­ful.

With that out of the way, Tisci, who in pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions was known for a Gothic sen­si­bil­ity spiked with a grunge kick and a Kar­dashian-Jen­ner so­cial life, proved he could do Sloane Square dress­ing with the best of them. Thus al­low­ing the cur­tain to come up on Act II: the youth quake part of the col­lec­tion. Which is to say am ash up of

Shake­speare (quotes, run­ning like arm­bands around sleeves, splashed Bar­bara Kruger-like on shirts), the Sex Pis­tols (photo mon­tages stuck onto the breast pock­ets like me­chanic’s lo­gos; ‘Who Killed Bambi’ across a men’s leop­ard wind­breaker), a cow print (be­cause maybe coun­try­side?), sweat shorts (for him) and shorter hem­lines (for her).

Not to men­tion a new in­ven­tion: the thigh-hug­ger. Imag­ine a strap at­tached to the bot­tom of men’s T-shirts, then droop­ing down to cir­cle the up­per leg, or sliced out of the hem of a miniskirt into two loops, its pur­pose un­clear.

So it went un­til Act III: evening. Back to pol­ish. Long black dresses, cowl-backed or dan­gling gilt fringe, made for do­ing a lan­guid waltz un­der the light of an enor­mous crys­tal chan­de­lier.

Back­stage af­ter the show, Tisci said he wanted to prove that Burberry wasn’t just about “one iden­tity,” but rather mul­ti­tudes; moth­ers and daugh­ters, fa­thers and sons. And that to do this, he wanted to be free to cel­e­brate all the lay­ers that per­co­lated through his mind when he thought about Eng­land (where he had lived for eight years, start­ing when he was 17, and where he went to fash­ion school and dis­cov­ered his call­ing).

He did all that. What he did not do: nod to the Eng­lish ec­cen­tric or Blooms­bury, a for­mer pet theme of the house, now of­ten hack­neyed in ex­pres­sion. That was a re­lief.

An­other thing he did not do: clothes with a gut punch of un­ex­pected im­pact, the kind that make you jolt back in your seat in shock and de­light. This was, de­spite all its breadth and ref­er­ences, an aw­fully safe begin­ning. The tweak­ing was in the de­tails: the al­tered check, the block­ier logo. Per­haps that’s un­der­stand­able; the stakes are aw­fully high. All’s well that ends well, and so on.

But it was hard not to long, amid all the chic and street re­straint, for a tem­pest.

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