Burberry, a label as classically English as a rolling green hill or a cup of tea, is now over 160 years old. Its biography would wax lyrical about gabardine trench coats with anchors in World War I and Nova Check prints that have been as synonymous with the upmarket elite as they have been with mass-produced trend exhaustion. But, according to its new leader of their revolution, 2018 will be its year of rebirth. Embracing its history, but also pleasantly archiving it, new creative director Riccardo Tisci is on a fire mission to dust off the proverbial lapels and present Burberry to a new generation.
A contentious task for the Italian-born designer whose most recent post was with French fashion house Givenchy. His vision is imperative to the future of his new employer, but convincing its long-standing British customer is, perhaps, to be his greatest challenge. Following much speculation, Tisci’s first collection, Spring Summer 2019, was presented in London this September. And, unlike fellow fresh-blood Hedi Slimane (who took the reigns at Celine), Tisci paid respectful homage to the brand’s incandescent culture while carefully nudging it towards a creative new future. The reviews have been glowing and the buzzy chatter has since continued.
Despite its roots in 19th Century England, arguably Burberry’s most “sceney” period was that of the mid-nineties through early 2000s. When the Kate Mosses and Liberty Rosses of London town were etched into the ether of the brand, sprawled over campaigns and billboards worldwide. Wearing Nova Check bikinis and classic Kensington trenches, this impressive branding saw girls and guys of all classes saving their hard-earned for a piece of British (fashion) royalty. And the muse-culture continued. Sienna Miller, Emma Watson and Adwoa Aboah among others have all sported the iconic garb. In recent years, a diversion from solely It-Brit girls saw faces like a young Romeo Beckham and actor Eddie Redmayne also crop up. But Tisci is here to shake things up further. Aware of the pressure of his position he recently told The Australian Financial Review “You know, I feel like I need to break this label, but not too violently, of course. I would hate if one day I had my house and suddenly a designer came and just destroyed what I’d done. But I want to get away from trench coats and checks. Christopher did a fantastic job. But I need to find my own identity. I’m not British, I have to celebrate the country in my own eyes.”
Referring to outgoing creative director Christopher Bailey, Tisci’s brief from the head honchos has been to not only reinvigorate the zeitgeist but to give a decent boost to sales. So, in a new, and unusual tactic, Tisci has announced the Burberry B-Series. A monthly drop of product that will be available solely through their Instagram link for 24 hours only. And following Tisci’s superstitious love of the number 17 (in Tarot language it means ‘The Star’), product will drop on the 17th of each month. The creative director is known for his superstitious nature, having also been said to throw salt in the corners of work spaces while at Givenchy to “remove negative energy”. Sure to create a flurry of purchase desperation, similar to that of Supreme’s cult-followed drops, this style of selling is something galaxies away from the namesake coat brand Thomas Burberry cultivated in 1856.
The first of this exclusive drop happened last month; a tee and sweatshirt featuring the hotly-debated new Burberry logo. The style is a departure from the seasonal collections and is distinctly street, unsurprising from the man who claims he “owns streetwear”. Urban casuals were a win for him at Givenchy, so will this diffusion collector’s edition work for Burberry as well? Already sported by Rihanna, The Weeknd and Dua Lipa, perhaps it just might.
This is not to say the trench culture is now passé. Quite the contrary. The trench will always be key to the aesthetic of Burberry, it’s just that now, thanks to Tisci, it will be just one part of it. In fact, for trench lovers based in Melbourne from now until November 11 the ‘Burberry Trench Studio’ will be set up in Chadstone. Inquisitive fashion minds can learn about the historic design, its tailored craftsmanship and also have the opportunity to customise elements of a bespoke coat themselves.
So it seems Tisci’s Burberry future will see something for everyone, and with just enough of a generational kick to get the über-stars adding pieces to their Instagrammable high rotation. This brave new world will also see an ethically conscious future. According to a report conducted by Stella McCartney last year, the fashion industry is now the third most polluting industry in the world. Alongside high street players like H&M, Burberry has pledged to reduce their use of plastic packaging and ensure that what is used is completely recyclable by 2025.
While it’s unlikely this new Burberry will take a turn for the muse-nostalgic, its current moves are the making of a very positive new future. And with a designated punk collaboration with the grande dame of English fashion Vivienne Westwood imminent it seems Tisci’s Burberry might just be the fuel needed to flame the new It-Brit fire.