If it wasn’t immediately clear through the conflicted collection that pit aristocracy vs. the bohemia, Riccardo Tisci’s autumn winter ’19 Burberry is a split-screen confrontation. And despite its being topical to Britain’s current political landscape (Brexit, climate change, international relations all causing polar discontent) his subliminal discourse was likely rather due to a grappling with the heritage house for whom he was employed last year.
With its need for change, Burberry tasked the Italian designer with bringing its stodgy history formidably into the zeitgeist. And while nostalgia can please the modernisation beast via irony, its only ever to a certain extent (as was proved during Christopher Bailey’s tenure). The real testament that a label has pierced the hypebeast is when the kids start parting with their hard-earned (and posting it to their followers).
Today, division was illustrated in setting and style. Tisci uniquely split his show (and guests) into two rooms of Tate Modern. One stoically decorated with plush furnishings amid wooden interiors and the other vagrantly set by scaffolding replete with tracksuit-wearing millennials. And the collection was equally duelling. One half was a sequel to his spring summer collection. Tottering in the form of pleated skirts, workplace shirting, rich brown leathers and classic trenches, mostly in customary tones of camels and beige, ladylike powder blues and chinzy prints. On the antiestablishment side? An Instagram-fallout of moto-leathers, slogan shearlings (reading things like “Burberry Isn’t Good For You”) and iconic Nova checks fighting it out for fabric space against track prints, rugby stripes and even parachuted Union Jacks.
Both “sides” of the audience were treated to the whole show, however. The style contrast becoming achingly apparent when its opposition began its stride in. Tisci’s gravitation to street-friendly kudos-wear was heralded during his shapeshifting time at Givenchy. He regenerated (so to speak) the French fashion house to become a shaker of the modern era. Burberry, it seems, wants what they were having.
Today’s show, aptly titled ‘Tempest’ was distorted and disconcerting, but you could see where he was going with it. The black and white distinction between the two Burberry customers (the established and the trendy) creates such parallel directions, parallel imagery and parallel business plans, that bringing it altogether will be his mountainous challenge. Last year Burberry began testing non-traditional sales tacts in the form of monthly social media drops and indie collaborations. These options for the new-gen aren’t craved, nor widely understood, by the original Burberry devotee, but are increasingly relevant in an ever-competitive, ever-confusing younger market.
While the looks today were jagged, they caused welcome ripples and CEO-pleasing pixel-filling (we’re sure to see that pale blue shearling coat and creeper brogues on more than a few influencers soon).
Tisci has a task, that’s for sure, but it’s likely his unique conflict will be rendered muse, rather than obstacle, as the seasons unfold.