Burberry’s first fashion event of the pandemic era was a moody and surreal experience which inverted the usual form of the runway show with the models cast as onlookers to a series of strange rituals taking place in the British Countryside.
The event began simply enough, with a model changing in a small mirrored room. As the woman finally emerged from the room, however, it became apparent that we were in the countryside – as a group of dark suited men and a woman in a trenchcoat made their way through the woods towards an improvised arena in a clearing.
As the camera panned around the circular structure, a series of raised podiums became visible, with pairs of t-shirt and trainer clad ‘observers’ standing or kneeling on each one. On the opposite side of the arena, a band stood motionless on a stage
The atmosphere was surreal and dreamlike, as if the whole thing was taking place in someone’s imagination. The music merely added to this feeling, with the distorted based lines, ethereal syth sounds and echoing, resonant vocals perfectly matching the unreal quality of the event. .
The fashion house’s Artistic Director Riccardo Tisci, had this to say about the show: “It began with a thought of British summertime; embracing the elements with a trench coat on the beach mixing with the sand and the water. I envisioned the people of this space, like the lighthouse keeper, and a love affair between a mermaid and a shark, set against the ocean, then brought to land”.
To emphasis the fact that this was a world turned on its head, the models had turned bystanders, forming a circle around the structure to better observe the spectacle about to unfold in the arena.
To compound this odd role reversal, it was the t-shirt and trainer clad observers who now took on the central role in the piece, coming down from their podiums and gathering in the centre of the arena.
Fragments of activity followed: a series of movements, dance, performance. A man began to twist and contort his arms, another lit a flare, a pair of couples began a series of movements which might have been a dance but could just as easily have been some form of conflict.
It was all a bit confusing – but at the same time, totally engrossing. What on earth was going on? And did it even matter – given how glorious it all looked?
Afterwards, Riccardo Tisci was keen to emphasis the importance of the circle in the piece. “The circle is hugely symbolic” he said in a press statement released after the show. “Regrowth, renewal, the circle of life”.
It was the clothes that we had all tuned in to see, however, and Burberry certainly did not disappoint. The collection, which Tisci had called In Bloom, had been inspired by the idea of regeneration, dynamic youth and the fertility of the sea.
It was easy to see how those ideas had weaved themselves into the pieces: from the oceanic blue of several of the garments; to the denim, gabardine and rubberised finishes used to suggest the ruggedness of the seafarers’ wardrobe.
Elsewhere, ice white shirts were enlivened with tie die style turquoise patterning, a bumble bee style top came with knee high black boots; and a selection of t-shirts, shirts and coats shimmered with the intensity of the imagery emblazoned on them.
Dramatic ankle length black raincoats gave some of the models the appearance of having stepped out of a marvel comic, while others wore outfits which benefitted from a multitude of layers.
No, the clothes were certainly a treat.
The show was not without its faults, however. The most salient of these was that it was not always possible to identify the finer detail of the garments on the live stream. On the flip side, however, the event was so much more engaging and atmospheric than a normal catwalk show.
Verdict: Burberry’s Outdoor Fashion Show was a wonderfully fitting way to start a London Fashion Week like no other. The experience will have delighted the fashion houses’ younger fans as much as it will have thrilled industry veterans.
However, it was the fashion itself that really set the event apart, with Burberry pulling out all the stops on a collection that was at once funky, futuristic, cartoonish and surreal. Which means: absolutely now.
Credit for all images: Burberry
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