Just about every piece on the Burberry Prorsum Autumn/Winter 2011 catwalk was available to buy, with a click of the mouse, immediately afterwards. How convenient, you might think, even with the six-to-eight week delivery time. But wait, surely purchasing winter clothing in March is a contradiction in terms - as is the idea of designing an entire collection over a year in advance. That, however, is the way contemporary fashion is working, and Christopher Bailey and his team have it down pat.
For Autumn/Winter - or Winter/Spring, or whatever meaningless label you choose to affix to what Burberry showed today - Bailey et al were thinking sixties. The collection was called (wait for it) 'Shrimpton'. Cue a thousand clicks on photographic archives, a million tweets, David Bailey's phone ringing off the hook for quotes. Of course, it was reminiscent of the last menswear collection - although the frisson of shock at seeing men attired in those slightly fey, girlish overcoats was entirely lost when they were placed on women. The shapes recalled Balenciaga's couture of the sixties, domed at shoulder and chest, cropped at wrist and standing proud of the body in firm double-face wool in brilliant orange, red and turquoise. The best had a touch of movement to a sack-back, emphasised by checked wools twisted onto the bias. At least, those were the opening numbers - quickly followed by primary-hued body-con knitwear studded with leather toggles, and then an odd few exits of lumpy white fur fused with aran woolies and knotted with a bit, fat pleather bow. The focus was, predictably, entirely on outerwear: when those Balenciaga-lite jackets were cropped too high, we got a glimpse of a dodgy ski-trouser in a synthetic nylon. Obviously, they were designed to be as unobtrusive as possible - one doubts they'll be pushed for that pre-pre sale through the brand's website.
There was a vague cohesivity in terms of theme and focus - as vague as the phrase 'Sixties' scrawled on a post-it and pinned to a trend-board. This collection felt trend-focussed to death, ideas milked dry and stripped of all immediacy. That's exactly what you have to do for factories to confidently whir into motion thirteen months ahead of delivery date for these garments. But is it really worth sacrificing every ounce of creative joy to the all-important digital altar of speed? Maybe that's a question we should all tweet the answer to.