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Burberry's First Showing of its New United Front

Christopher Bailey's pre-Fall goes heavy on the house's military heritage, light on the lightness.
Burberry pre-Fall 2016 | Source: Burberry
By
  • Tim Blanks

LONDON, United Kingdom — Burberry is now as one, with the London and Brit lines joining Prorsum under a single label. As if to reinforce the new corporate monolith, Christopher Bailey showed a pre-fall collection that was imposingly grounded in the company's original military heritage. "This is how we build the future," he might almost have been saying. "On the firm foundation of the past." And what firm foundations! You could practically bench-press the huge shearling parka. A fringed herringbone poncho was scarcely less impressive.

Military pieces Bailey found in the company archives inspired the red topstitching that detailed long, lean, precise coats over matching pants that flared over the ankle. The look was strict. Same with the capes and trenches. Regimental details ran the gamut in the collection, from the gold buttons on an otherwise austere coat, to the belt buckle closing on a hand-bag and the rucksack lifted from a 19th century officer's kit. It was serious stuff, until you came upon the military pleats on a glittering little dress in floral-jacquarded lamé. They looked a little like something a very camp gladiator might fancy. That particular item was shown with fishnet stockings. The playfulness was welcome. So was the sportiness of a tracksuit top in navy silk crepe or a little indigo jean jacket, produced, for the first time, in a heritage denim company on the West Coast of America. Burberry's other big heritage fabric of recent times, lace, was scarcely in evidence this season. Sheer tulle did all the heavy lifting on behalf of lightness (though even that was luggage-stitched).

Bailey feels that the duffle coat is ripe to join the trench, the poncho and the scarf as a Burberry Hall of Famer. As much as it is a dream candidate for the military rigour that otherwise ruled the collection (and sure, there was that option too), he showed his duffle in a chunky fox-raccoon mix. Fur on those firm foundations? It’s the kind of quirky touch that helps you imagine Christopher Bailey being quietly entertained by the Burberry he’s building.

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