Because, despite the flashes of bare skin and the trench coats barely clinging to the crooks of models’ elbows, the cuts were immaculate – proof that sexy can also be done without going skin-tight. In the pressed, muted shirts and the pooling trousers, Burberry’s current era could be for Londoners circa 1962 or 2062; retro-futuristic timelessness that felt like the costume department of a much funner version of genetic thriller-sci-fi Gattaca. Or Blade Runner if it were set on Old Bond Street. This stuff is familiar and sexy and wearable all at once.
The monochrome trench coats gave way to floral dresses for the femme fatale at the village fête, and waistcoats with nothing underneath and several remarkably pared-back handbags – perhaps Burberry’s attempt to push the Shield bag into It bag waters.
Burberry’s official show notes gave away very little.“DANIEL LEE’S EXPRESSION OF BURBERRY CONTINUES WITH A SUMMER COLLECTION” it read in block caps above some technical info about the clothes in hand. And, unlike that Kennington debut, the ever-elusive creative director eschewed questions from the press pre and post-show. It was on us to find the meaning.
That wasn’t so difficult to glean upon the show’s climax. As the clothes got steamier, and fluider, and sexier, the final look saw a topless model serpentine through the show’s cloisters in nothing but impossibly low trousers fastened with a VHS-sized belt buckle depicting Burberry’s ‘Equestrian Knight’ logo. This high fashion paladin was revived from the archives to represent the brand’s new direction, and is often displayed under the word ‘prosum’ which is taken from the Latin for forward. Burberry is thinking ahead about what it can come to represent in a country that’s undergoing so much change.
And Burberry is a symbol of the UK, whether it likes it or not. “Burberry reminds me of England,” Tottenham captain Son Heung-min told GQ at the show. “It reminds me of the British gentleman: the check patterns and the classic and practicality.” In the UK’s anxiety era, we crave direction and instruction. And, at the show’s close, the idea of being a sexy, self-assured nation didn’t seem so alien. Burberry, through its quietly steamy clothes and the sporadic flashes of flesh, reminded us that, for a time in the early 2000s, we were a sexy, self-assured nation; trousers were low-slung, and Britain knew what it was, and nightclubs were actually open as places of romance and myth and asymmetrical necklines. The UK is still a place of innate strangeness and self-deprecation, of course. We’re still buoyed by resilient, charming weirdos and Anglo-Saxon ritual. But the hottest ticket at London Fashion Week reminded us that we can be hot, too. In the United Kingdom of Burberry, maybe we can be all of those things at once.