Christopher Bailey's Burberry Prorsum stands out like a sore thumb in Milan. Why? Because it's quintessentially, undeniably, unapologetically British. The language difference between the Brits and the Italians isn't merely verbal - they're evidently speaking a different language aesthetically too.
This season, Christopher Bailey turned to his eternal muse, the English Gentleman. Granted, he's an apocryphal archetype, but he's enduring that's for sure. Over the past few seasons he's been couched in faux-punk studded leather or Modish sixties swing-coats, but today Bailey's interpretation rang pure and true. If there was any cultural or historical reference point, it was the Sloane Ranger of the mid-eighties, eschewing that decade's flashy European styles for something duller, drabber and altogether more English. Ring any bells?
There wasn't anything dour about Bailey's re-imagining of Sloaney stalwarts, however. Instead it was an excuse to explore tailoring and colour, although both were restrained and subdued. Bailey's double-breasted jackets hugged the torso tightly, skinny trousers nipping the hips and streamlining the leagues. The palette was a rainbow of English country hues: moss green, berry shades of ripe scarlet and violet, burnt umber and brown in slick wools. The country theme also came through in the outerwear - or should we say the outer-outerwear. Burberry Prorsum boys wear their jackets in twos, layering a cropped and padded bomber over a slim single-breasted blazer, say, or throwing a tweedy bomber with martingale in back like an ultra-trad Norfolk jacket over a neat grey flannel two-piece. There was a nod to the striped ties and collegiate scarves of the english public schoolboy in these pieces too, down-parkas colour-blocked in contrast bands of aubergine, burgundy and navy, sometimes wool-jersey scarves themselves pieced into the hems of classic mackintosh styles.
These are cliches of English dress - the perceived British obsession with horse and hound was even alluded too in a couple of jokey bead images of fox-heads adorning sweaters and buttoned-up shirts - but in the hands of Bailey it had a genuine resonance, an honesty, dare we say a soul? Only an Englishman could have come up with a tongue-in-cheek finale of models marching down a catwalk with foulard-pattern, duck's-head handle umbrellas held high like a merry masculine band of Mary Poppins impersonators while a digital squall raged across an LED backdrop. But the strength of that truly great Great British brand image will have worldwide resonance.