Burberry: Daniel Lee debuts by bringing back Britishness
Talk about the weight of expectations. Rarely has a debut collection by a new creative director for a major league fashion brand seemed so important as Daniel Lee’s debut for Burberry on Monday night.
The result was a celebration of Britishness – from English roses and medieval knights to plaid playfulness and trench-coat couture.
It’s hard to underestimate how important Burberry feels for the UK luxury industry. It is its one truly global mega brand. Local reviewers treat it like a member of the royal family.
Which is what made this first collection by Lee so interesting. It was a slanted view of the archives, self-indulgent, occasionally odd and even eccentric. But above all it felt new and different and very gutsy, by proposing a fresh vision of Burberry.
Pre-show, the paparazzi had a field day, or rather evening, as a gang of stars gathered inside a custom-built tent in the south London neighbourhood of Kennington.
Jason Statham and girlfriend Rosie Huntington-Whiteley sat front row; as did actresses Jodie Comer and Selma Blair; veteran UK supe Liberty Ross and partner Jimmy Iovine; Georgia Mae and Bianca Jagger; a small posse of Chinese movie stars; rappers Skepta and Future. Soccer player Son Hueng-Min from Tottenham Hotspur; fashion’s favorite film director Baz Luhrmann; and face DJ Honey Dijon also worked the scene pre-show.
Spacey industrial music set the mood in a dark set. With a twisting runway and padded seats, on each of which was a rubber hot water bottle covered in wool plaid. Strangely, almost the only plaid in the collection.
Is the hot water bottle the new handbag? One would certainly think so given that over a dozen models carried hotties in various plaids in the show. Lee is clearly expecting a harsh winter in 2023, sending out dozens of great coats; padded trench-coats; faux fur yeti worthy parkas and immense puffers.
It was almost as if BBC gardening star Monty Don had planned to build a garden in Canada. Trapper gardening chic – from the huge Wellington boots and Klondike gold miners fur hats to all sorts of fur bags and shoes.
Above all this was a deliberate attempt to revive the brand by playing with multiple logos and signifiers which Lee discovered in his first weeks delving through the archive.
Lee revived Prorsum, meaning future in Latin, throughout the collection, including it on big blanket coats, and most powerfully in a series of abstract prints.
Daniel’s opening was hyper indicative: a redhead model in an oversized mono-color trench, topped by a shearling collar and anchored by metallic pickle green boots with an ankle bracelet. Followed by a guy in the exact same outfit, albeit in construction boots.
Posh punk at times with tartan just-above the knee abstract print skirts worn with taught tops for gals; or plaid loon pants and sweaters, with matching hot bottles for boys. Worn by Iris Law, daughter of Jude; while Lennon Gallagher, son of Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit, donned an abstract rose print parka and matching pants.
Lee was also obsessed with the English rose, featuring it on t-shirts, in pattern cuts or embroideries. They all looked great.
Under his predecessors, Burberry never really had a hit shoe. Lee’s thick-link leather intreccio shoe for Bottega Veneta, in his previous career position, was the fashion shoe of 2021. His more varied array for Burberry had plenty of potential best-sellers, from the spike-heels covered in faux fur and finished with a leather rose; or a series of hiking boots with the Prorsum logo on their soles.
“It was exciting to try to find the narrative of Burberry. And I wanted to go back to the idea of functionality, men and women on the go, and clothes that will last, that are not too precious,” explained Lee post-show backstage.
Keeping it Brit, a multiplicity of trench coats will all be made in Britain. Many of the fabrics had been around for 100 years, already reissued in lighter materials, like summer weight gabardines.
He also showed some great, big bags. Huge totes, roomy weekenders all very commercial, in mixes of shearling, faux fur and tough cowhide.
Sitting beside Luhrmann was Christopher Bailey, the house’s creative director of a decade and a half. He opined: “What I loved was that I felt that Daniel has planted the seeds for lots of ideas for the future. And I even liked the way things were just a little odd.”
All told, not quite a home run, but a very impressive first at bat, from a designer who clearly has embraced a positive vision of Burberry. Lee sees the brand as a cultural expression of UK’s artistic creativity. And Lee is right.
“Being back here in London is just so inspiring. There is just so much great music, schools and theatre. You just have to walk down the street and there are so many creative people from so many walks of life, all living together. And that’s what I am trying to celebrate,” said Lee.
Post-show, he feted his debut with a packed cocktail in an 18th century pub, The Clacken, just off Regent Street, with a truly spellbinding set by DJ EZ, another proof that Lee is tapping into the right UK zeitgeist.
Daniel had been telegraphing his intentions these past few weeks. First with his debut ad campaign featuring an eclectic bunch of Brits from England football star Raheem Sterling to Vanessa Redgrave.
But ultimately, what really matters to all the Brits in the audience, was whether Lee was going to be a success.
And, even if very much a work in progress, the gut feeling from impartial experts was yes, Lee’s vision of Burberry was sufficiently fresh that Burberry is very much back.
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