Burberry’s Alternative Fashion Reality – The New York Times


LONDON — Call it London Fashion Lunchtime.

On Friday, three weeks after the city’s Fashion Week and two days after the official season ended in Paris, Burberry held its unisex fall 2022 show. It was noon. The site was Central Hall Westminster, opposite Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. The guests were gathering.

Anna Wintour, content director of Condé Nast and global editorial director of Vogue, and Edward Enninful, editor of British Vogue, stood outside the champagne bar, not drinking. Actor Adam Driver was heading backstage, his face stern, his body seemingly as chiseled as it appears in advertisements for Burberry’s Hero perfume, in which his bare chest is the star. He was looking for Riccardo Tisci, creative director of Burberry, who was holding court in a room called President’s Suite.

Like much of reality right now, everything felt the same, but different.

“We wanted to show in London and be proud to be a British company showing in this country,” Mr Tisci said before the show. Only, well… “a lot has happened,” Mr. Tisci said, like Covid and the impending arrival of the brand’s new chief executive. And then there was the war. So they were a bit late.

The day before, Burberry’s collaboration with streetwear giant Supreme, which included hoodies, trucker jackets and T-shirts, had sold out in less than a day. By contrast, Mr Tisci said, the runway collection was much more “couture”. (By that, he seemed to mean fancy.) Also British. Mr. Tisci said he was dismantling and rebuilding the pillars of the house: trenches, car coats and tiles. “I feel more at home,” he said, nearly four years after joining the brand. “I can play with it.”

Behind his head were two bulletin boards with photos of every look he was about to show: womenswear on one, menswear on the other. Mr. Tisci pointed to a trench coat-turned-bustier dress and a pink twin set, embellished with crystals that formed the brand’s chivalrous emblem, as examples of what he was talking about.

When guests were ushered into the lobby, the lights were off. In the space were five round tables, set for lunch, visible only by the glare of people’s phones. Someone said it looked like “The Last Supper”, only a fashion version.

There were no chairs and therefore no pecking order. Everyone was standing there (that’s what fashion calls democracy), an audience of hundreds. Some mumbled about Covid. Others feared fainting. Security was concerned about how the models would walk through the crowd. It turned out that the catwalk was actually somewhere in the middle of where the audience was standing.

The models raced down the steps on either side of the hall’s great organ, before heading down a path that had been cut through the standing crowd. While marching, the London Contemporary Orchestra played works by Michael Nyman and Max Richter from the balcony.

Menswear came first, in a torrent of looks involving double-breasted blazers with gold buttons, checkered knit hooded overshirts with a large triangle cut-out on the chest revealing a T-shirt splattered underneath with the word ENGLAND. There were hybrid baseball caps with padded headbands.

Then the crowds were invited to step aside as new paths were carved out, and women’s clothing appeared at a more steady and stately pace. A choir joined from above.

It turned out that the dining tables weren’t meant for eating at all but rather for the models, who climbed a series of hidden steps to the side and then took turns getting up and stopping, the better to show their stereotypically British outfits: dependable outerwear, sensible knitwear, knee-length skirts and big dresses. The kind of clothes perfect for a nation that is collectively preparing to get out of its Land Rover and head to a country ball. Gigi Hadid, in a diamond quilted coat, vamped as if she was about to run to the grocery store. The Ladyfag club promoter wore a long-sleeved top sewn from various Burberry labels.

As they walked up to their tables, some models wobbled in their towering stretch leather thigh-high boots. Mr. Enninful, who happened to be usefully positioned near the steps of a table, held out his hand to stabilize or reassure, as needed. In the crowd, Naomi Campbell, dressed in a black pantsuit, looked on. Carla Bruni, in crimson sleeveless, vaped. When Mr. Tisci bowed out, he remained near the organ, high up.

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