The Burberry catwalk show was perhaps not quite the triumphant moment of upbeat glamor that had been planned for this season’s London fashion week, but it was a blockbuster display of its firepower.
When Britain’s biggest luxury brand swiftly postponed its post-pandemic return to the schedule as a mark of respect after the Queen’s death, Burberry’s prime Saturday slot turned into a Monday one sandwiched between Milan and Paris fashion weeks.
Rather than being held at a central London landmark – logistically impossible as the capital prepared for the royal funeral – the rescheduled show was shifted to a warehouse in Bermondsey, south London.
Nonetheless, the show highlighted Burberry’s strength. Kanye West and Stormzy applauded from the front row, while the supermodels Naomi Campbell and Bella Hadid starred on the catwalk.
In the center of the hangar-sized industrial venue, a specially commissioned piece of music by the composer Paul Mealor, a longtime conductor of the choir at Crathie Kirk church in Balmoral, where Queen Elizabeth II frequently attended services, was performed by the soprano Nadine Sierra and the London Contemporary Orchestra, dressed in black baseball caps bearing the Thomas Burberry TB monogram.
It was an untimely delay for Burberry, with an extra week of front-row gossip on industry rumours.
The contract signed by Riccardo Tisci when he was appointed five years ago, after a long and successful tenure by Christopher Bailey that put Burberry back on the fashion map, is soon to expire.
Tisci’s has been a respectable innings, bringing edge and an all-important youthful audience to a brand that has been criticised for becoming predictable. He has also kept the Burberry show on the road during a challenging period for a brand more reliant than many of its rivals upon customers in China, where prolonged lockdowns have hit profits hard.
But with a changing of the guard in the Burberry boardroom – Marco Gobbetti, the chief executive who brought Tisci to Burberry, has been replaced by Versace alumnus Jonathan Akeroyd – Tisci’s own reign may be coming to an end. The name of Daniel Lee, the young British designer whose brief tenure at Bottega Veneta showed him to have a winning way with an It bag, has been linked with the house.
Tisci’s critics argue that he has failed to exploit the opportunity that Burberry has in being Britain’s premier heritage luxury house, and that sense of disconnect struck a dissonant note. Burberry described the collection as being inspired by the British seaside. But the beach-life references in the clothes – oversized shark earrings suspended on a diamante fish-hook, sandals with Velcro fastenings inspired by surfboard straps – were more tropical island than deckchair-and-beach-hut.
It was Tisci’s own design signatures that stood out. His fingerprints were all over the high-gothic Victoriana of long, intricate lace dresses and the bold, surreal streetwear of inflatable rucksacks and Garish sweatshirts.