Burberry Prorsum plays a whole different ball-game: the potent power politics of the Milanese fashion mafia.
More than just a designer label, Burberry is possibly the only true British brand - with a turn-over in the billions and blockbuster advertising budget to prove it - automatically bumping them up a league from everyone else in London. Snagging them to show as part of fashion week's 25th anniversary celebrations was an unprecedented triumph for the British Fashion Council. This wasn't about a returning Brit with a bit of Parisian polish or New York gloss. Burberry Prorsum plays a whole different ball-game: the potent power politics of the Milanese fashion mafia. Witness a true conglomerate flexing its financial might: custom-constructed venue; seating plans with the rigidity of a subcontinental caste-system; a roster of campaign stars on the catwalk, and an equally stellar line-up alongside it. All of the above could conspire to eclipse the clothing shown, if Christopher Bailey's creative lead were not one of fashion's most compelling. This season, his vision for Burberry Prorsum focussed on fabric - great swathes of the stuff, trussed, tucked and darted around the silhouette. As always at Burberry, the trench was the canvas for articulation of any idea - in this case, rendering coats in chiffon or duchesse satin, softly folded in on itself or ruched and gathered. Sometimes this leant a full curve to the coats' skirts; other times drapes were strictly restricted around raglan shoulders, twisted and tonsured into controlled crescents as a new interpretation of firm-peaked power-tailoring. This swathing and swaddling crossed over to dresses, too - decidedly short chiffon numbers, softly sungarplum shaded in palest celadon, sky-blue and a veritable rainbow of beige, came criss-crossed with self-fabric bondage straps or webbing belts. The Sevres porcelain colours, and those tucked and rucked Polonaise skirts, had the Rococo mood of the eighteenth century - but also an air of the high-powered Haute Couture eighties of Christian Lacroix. This was both a good and a bad thing: good when hitting the same delicious note of frivolity as Lacroix's finest work; bad when that extra fabric conspired to add inches on the hips in a similar fashion to the much-lambasted pouf. Ruched leggings took these experiments with fabric manipulation a logical step too far - but maybe Bailey needed to exorcise this execrable idea from his head before moving on. It was worth that brief unpleasantness when his twists and turns were applied to sensational leather or golden-braid clutchbags, the lighter and tighter of his daytime dresses (especially a rosepetal number with gilt-outlined ruffled bodice) and Bailey's closing coats, newly curvilinear in gunmetal, pewter and silvered blossoms under a well-justified celebratory shower of tinsel.