Burberry F/W 2016
Burberry F/W 2016

If there is a single brand that defines British fashion, it is Burberry. By far the largest show of the week and the one that inevitably gets the most attention, Christopher Bailey knows well that every fashionable eye is watching the moment the lights dim and the music begins to play for one of his runway presentations. This season the attention may even be a bit heavier than usual. A couple of weeks ago the label announced that they would be canceling their menswear shows and integrating them in with the womenswear. They also announced limited runway sales starting immediately after the show. The biggest announcement, perhaps, was that starting in September their shows will be seasonless. Instead of the September collection being listed as Spring/Summer, as has been the tradition, theirs will simply be September, and the full collection will be for sale immediately following the show.

Bailey is as much a master of marketing as he is a genius at capturing trends and integrating them into his label. He uses both culture and climate to create runway presentations that are like twenty-minute commercials. Each one is unique, defined as much by its non-fashion elements as the styles that walk their runway. This season, Bailey totally changed the tone by covering the glass-enclosed show space at Kensington Gardens with heavy drapes, creating a dark and moody atmosphere. For music, he returned to using a single acoustic artist with Jake Bugg’s soulful sound that reminds one of a young James Taylor circa 1973. The floor was a light-toned wood and the lights stayed more dim than what would be normal for a Burberry show.

The feel was of the 1970s. This is a collection where pants legs are flared, but if they come past mid-calf they’re too long. Emerald green is a primary color but there are few solids as diamond-patterned prints rule the day. Brown patterned leggings are standard underneath skirts and dresses, and embellishments on shoes, such as buckles and tassels are a bit large. Military-style coats with big brass buttons are frequent and men’s ties are narrow, knit, and have a squared-off end to them. And if you don’t have at least one coat or jacket with a wide lambswool collar this fall, then one is terribly out of touch.

We see a lot more full-body bead work in this collection, and the amount of sequins is higher than normal,  even taking over men’s trousers on a couple of occasions. Psychedelic brocade makes more than one appearance as does a very shimmery patchwork pattern. There are metallics blended in here and there throughout the collection, making them feel ubiquitous even though, for the most part, they’re pretty much there for embellishment. Rectangle shaped cutouts down the center of women’s dresses re-shape the concept of a plunging neckline while tweeds fade into the background quietly, the least we’ve seen of them in recent memory.

This is definitely a fall/winter collection, which makes me incredibly curious as to what we will see in the September collection. Will it be more of the same, or will Bailey go in a completely different direction yet again, essentially creating two fall collections within the same 12 months? I’m sure he has already figured out exactly what is likely to work best for the Burberry label. Nothing seems to get past him or escape his attention. I hope other designers are paying attention. We’re watching a dramatic shift in fashion presentation unfold before our eyes.

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