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Burberry’s Star-Studded Redo

Riccardo Tisci’s show, which was rescheduled following Queen Elizabeth II’s death, drew an A-list crowd as the brand seeks to launch a new cycle of growth.
Models applaud Riccardo Tisci following the designer’s spring show for Burberry.
Models applaud Riccardo Tisci following the designer’s Spring/Summer 2023 show for Burberry. (Getty Images)

LONDON — A who’s who of global pop culture turned up for designer Riccardo Tisci’s latest Burberry show, staged in a South London warehouse. Rappers Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Stormzy were there; so were singer Chloe Bailey, screenwriter and producer Lena Waithe, and actors Simone Ashley and Vachirawit (Bright) Chivaaree.

Despite taking place as a stand-alone event sandwiched between the Milan and Paris shows — the brand’s London Fashion Week show was postponed following the Queen’s death — many of fashion’s most influential names turned out as well, with Anna Wintour and Carine Roitfeld sitting front-row.

On the runway, the collection was sported by top models including Naomi Campbell, Bella Hadid, Irina Shayk and Erin O’Connor, as well as Tisci’s longtime muse Mariacarla Boscono.

If the show was a swan song for the designer — as some on the front-row chattered — he certainly went out with a bang.

At Burberry, Tisci has navigated the tensions between the brand’s British DNA and his own provocative pop-culture sensibilities, Italian point-of-view, and background designing lacy French couture (he rose to stardom as the designer of Givenchy for 12 years). His take on Burberry is less preppy and more street-smart, at once sexy and utilitarian.

That exploration was on display Monday in a collection inspired by the seaside and “recontextualised within London,” the brand explained, as the designer juxtaposed Burberry’s iconic outerwear with swimsuits, lace bodices, crystal bralettes, and delicate chemise slip dresses styled over fishnet catsuits.

“This season we explored a new sensuality — a consciousness of the body,” Tisci said. “That tension between dressing and undressing, between revelation and protection, underwear and outerwear, all feels relevant to now.”

In recent weeks, reports have swirled that Burberry is in talks with designers to succeed Tisci, who has been chief creative officer of the house since 2018. (The front-runner is thought to be British designer Daniel Lee, who helped breathe fresh life into Kering’s Bottega Veneta before exiting the label last November). A Burberry spokesperson declined to comment on what the brand dismissed as “speculation.”

Whether or not Tisci is moving on to his next chapter, Burberry already is: new CEO Jonathan Akeroyd joined the brand in March, and is set to present an updated strategy for the brand in November. While Akeroyd is expected to continue the process of brand elevation pursued by previous CEO Marco Gobbetti, he’ll need to take decisive steps to accelerate sales.

Under Gobbetti and Tisci, both veteran executives from luxury conglomerate LVMH, Burberry refreshed its visual identity — rolling out a bolder, cleaner new logo that boosted the brand’s street appeal — as well as increasing the share of accessories in the business. That key category for luxury brands’ profits now makes up more than a third of Burberry’s sales. The company also tightened its distribution, reducing exposure to discount-prone wholesale accounts and less-desirable malls.

But even if the brand feels more current than it did five years ago, and is more firmly positioned in the luxury space, its market share has continued to slip.

Sales for the fiscal year ending April 2, 2022 rose above pre-pandemic levels to £2.8 billion ($3 billion), with comparable retail growing 6 percent on a two-year stack. By contrast, the likes of Chanel and LVMH saw sales jump more than 20 percent compared with 2019 last year. The company is also set to lose its chief financial and operating officer Julie Brown, who on Friday announced she was leaving the company to join pharmaceutical giant GSK.

At Monday’s show, even as Tisci unleashed his penchant for skin-baring silhouettes, the brand’s bread-and butter outerwear didn’t disappoint, buyers said. Coats included options in washed blue denim, leather and brightly-coloured cotton.

“The femininity portrayed in long fluid skirts, trousers in light fabrics, cinched waist jackets and outerwear was clear, and contrasted with the strong black tailoring and structured leather pieces — styles which I can see translating really well for our customers,” said Simon Longland, head of menswear and womenswear at Harrods.

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State of Fashion 2023
© 2022 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions and Privacy policy.
State of Fashion 2023