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Christopher Bailey Chases an Old-Time Good Luck Formula

There wasn't much news in Burberry's new men's collection, but you can't keep a good coat down.
Burberry Autumn/Winter 2016 | Source: InDigital.tv
By
  • Tim Blanks

LONDON, United Kingdom — Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: it's what a bride is supposed to wear for good luck on her wedding day, though that was hardly its context at Burberry's men's show on Monday afternoon. Instead, for Christopher Bailey, the old meant the vintage pieces that were interspersed throughout the show (the oldest was a coat from the 1930s). They had been borrowed from all over the world, probably being happily worn till recently wherever they came from. (As the cab driver said this morning, "A Burberry coat never gets old.") They definitely looked a lot more substantial than a new element, like the cropped drainpipe pants that bared an inch or so of ankle above the sneakers that were the shoe of choice. If they were intended to underscore a pared-back, lean athleticism, then that would have matched with the zipped tracksuit tops that were the foundation of look after look.

Bailey liked the idea of blending different worlds together, the classic and the sporty, in an environment free of fashion codes. But the sporty elements were so simple, so slight that they looked mostly like something the models had been given so they wouldn’t be naked under their coats. Because, make no mistake, this was another of those collections that celebrated the spectacular substance of Burberry outerwear.

It’s one area where the company’s military heritage gives it a natural advantage. Trench coats, officers’ coats, army duffels, peacoats and capes are naturals for Burberry, with bombers, MA-1s and puffa jackets added to update the heritage. Then Bailey gave all that oldness a new spin for Autumn by upsizing the silhouette, adding some texture, some pattern, throwing in a great big fox coat for drama. If the new spin wasn't exactly a new direction — or even a breath of fresh air — it felt like a strong commercial statement. Although Bailey might heed the cab driver's words — coats that never get old never need replacing.

Burberry was the first major show after the news came through about David Bowie’s death. It was sheer coincidence there were several glam pieces in the show that sparkled with sequins. By way of subtle tribute, makeup artist Wendy Rowe also applied a smear of glitter under models’ eyes. But Bailey was in a pensive mood after the show. While he incorporated vintage pieces in the show, he was remembering shopping in jumble sales when he was young, putting together looks under the influence of Bowie’s chameleon sensibility. “Fashion is supposed to be celebratory,” Bailey said quietly. “This feels like something else.”

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