The music festivals of Britain have become less about the tunes and more about escapism, extravagance and liberally dousing oneself in glitter. So if you’re planning to go to Glastonbury, Bestival, Port Eliot or Wilderness this summer you’d do well to check out the finale of the Burberry S/S 17 show, in which there were capes as far as the eye could see, each one unique. Some resembled Elizabethan ruffs, all stiff frothy lace (a callback to the Orlando-inspired collection for A/W 16, perhaps), while silvered feathers, seashells, rhinestones and braid were all used to complete the haute hippy effect.
The spectacular of the finale was somewhat at odds with the collection itself, which although it had moments of exuberance was actually rather low key. Christopher Bailey was inspired by the sculptor Henry Moore, a reference writ large by the power of Burberry with borrowed sculptures, maquettes, models, sketches and studio ephemera from the Henry Moore Foundation decorating the show space. Situated in Soho once again, the space will open to the public as Makers House from 21 February where visitors will be able to see Moore’s work up close and take part in craft workshops. The project is an impressive display of clout, and serves as a reminder of the brand’s might. The vast crowds drawn for the show was another indicator, from the men’s and womenswear press, buyers and global celebrities seated on wicker chairs inside the vast space, to the young fans and star-spotters being held back by bouncers and barriers outside.
Showing coed collections is still relatively new territory for Burberry, as is the see now, shop now model - both premiered last season - but they seem to have reinvigorated Bailey in some way. As has his return to focus on craftsmanship.
This collection was all in the best possible taste, incorporating lace, broderie anglaise and macrame, cable knits and grey sweatshirting. The references to Moore in the collection worked best when they weren’t too overt. Circular heels that mimicked the Moore’s fluid forms were an unnecessary affectation on pointy boots which jarred with spliced knits and sweaters which softly sculpted the body.
Ideas of androgyny were mostly one-sided with men in lace and crochet, while the womenswear looks largely focused on dresses and skirts. The layering essential to show the depth of product in a Burberry collection was given a new asymmetric, off-kilter edge that helped it seem more modern and naturalistic. The same could be said of a washed gabardine version of the brand’s classic coat. The palette was largely neutral - whites and creams, blacks and charcoals and oodles of workroom blues. Even the scant use of colour was muted, coming by way of shirts in sketch prints that were redolent of a gift shop souvenir.
The collection was available to order immediately, and the brand’s new ad campaigns have already rolled out online. It remains to be seen how successful this new format will be for the house, or any other which has attempted to recalibrate for these fast-changing times. But, if Bailey and Burberry can retain their tighter focus of late, the future will no doubt be looking rosy.