The Burberry runway was one of the biggest talking points at London Fashion Week this season as it introduced a new retail model. WGSN Global News Editor Nigel Taylor reports
Burberry’s first full see-now-buy-now show took place in London last night, against a backdrop of a live orchestra, garnering millions of viewers and setting off a global conversation on social media.
An event it truly was, as arguably Britain’s biggest runway label dived head-first into a new era, showing both its men’s and women’s offer together and dubbing it ‘September 2016’ during spring/summer 2017’s London fashion week.
Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, who was born in the Elizabethan era as a man and changed gender during his/her more-than-300-year existence, much of the offer was as gender-neutral as it was season-neutral.
Bailey told Reuters that he was inspired by the idea of “living through different periods and the fluidity of gender.”
It took in historical influences including ruff collars, elaborate heritage army uniforms, interiors-inspired tapestry fabrics and 1920s pyjamas/dressing gowns – all mixed in with Burberry’s signature modern pieces featuring snakeskin, lace and, of course, multiple reworkings of the classic trench coat.
Speaking about the collection, Lizzy Bowring, WGSN Head of Catwalks said: “Christopher Bailey’s collection for Burberry had been carefully curated. This was not just a ‘see now buy now’ collection, this was a lineup consisting of gorgeous clothes that were up to the minute in detailing and styling, just what the avid followers of Burberry have come to expect of Bailey’s catwalk shows. It’s all in the experience, the touch, the feel and of course, the story telling. One could not help get caught up in the romance of this collection but then, is this not the reason for a catwalk show?
“Just because it offers ‘see now buy now’ immediacy to consumers, does not mean that the romance disappears. Bailey’s story encapsulated the ideas from Virginia Wolfe, Orlando, a biography along with the Elizabethan era and all the trappings. We were transported in time. The look of the collection was totally on-point with many designers at London Fashion week presenting boudoir-inspired collections. Bailey is just that bit ahead of the game!”, she adds.
The collection comes at a crucial point for the business. Bailey is preparing to step down as Burberry CEO when Céline’s Marco Gobbetti arrives next summer while staying in creative control. And Bailey launched the new initiative in the middle of tough times. The brand is facing the same luxury headwinds as its high-end peers and has found key markets such as Hong Kong, mainland China and the US a challenge.
Bailey didn’t discuss specific business problems yesterday but did refer to the challenges and told Reuters: “I think our industry is changing quite dramatically, as are all industries, because of technology, because of different behaviours.”
Last night’s event aimed to make the most of those changing behaviours as Burberry packed the front row with celebrities and didn’t just live stream the show but live-streamed it on Burberry.com, WeChat, YouTube, Facebook Live, and stores including Barneys’ NYC and Beverly Hills flagships.
In fact, with a keen eye on the US market, the company simultaneously launch its Burberry x Barneys New York that includes exclusives and show pieces, selling its womenswear through the store for the first time.
Bailey had previously said in a Wall Street Journal interview that he has been looking “at what we could do to drive traffic into the stores, what we could do to drive excitement with customers.” And yesterday’s show certainly would have done that with key pieces like the new bridle bag, the wraparound studded belt, the cleverly cut knits and Burberry’s signature shearlings likely to have been popular instant buys last night.
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