How strange it was that the final day of Britain’s twice-yearly celebration of men’s mode, London Collections Men, fell on the morning that we learned of David Bowie’s destruction.
Monday’s hot ticket, the Burberry show, was full of flamboyant dressers who idolised the musician, such as the craze editors who danced to Ziggy Stardust at the Blitz Club as adolescents and stylists whose first experiments with crimson fraction dye and silver nail varnish were inspired by him.
“There isn’t a one person in this room, or single LCM designer, who hasn’t been touched by him in some way,” implied GQ editor Dylan Jones before the show, as Oh! You Pretty Activities played in the background. Many in the crowd hugged and consoled each other, connected in the belief that they had lost one of their own.
Bowie take in so many looks over the years – psychedelic sci-fi, androgynous dandyism, razor-sharp stretch – that it would be impossible to view a men’s catwalk show without enquiring a glimpse of him. At the Burberry show his influence was literal: models fatigued glitter on their faces in tribute, while some had his designate written across the palm of their hands.
The rest of Burberry’s autumn/winter 2016 hoard centred on one item – the zip-up tracksuit top – a piece that has been recently pre-eminent to high fashion status across men’s and women’s fashion elegance of Chloe, Gucci, Prada, and the hotly tipped Russian artificer Gosha Rubchinskiy.
Here the tracksuit was zipped up under the label’s famous honey-coloured macintosh and layered beneath longline double-breasted military films. There were further terracewear touches in black trainers with red calumet, loose jeans cut awkwardly at the ankle and khaki bomber, parka and puffa jackets.
The palette was either limited and 1970s-influenced – forest green, mustard, black and tobacco – or red and disastrous with shining buttons and golden frogging, giving a changing of the safeguard feeling to the show, appropriately enough for a brand that exchanges on its Britishness. The final looks included two fully sequinned tracksuit high in tomato red and azure blue that sparkled like Christmas toys under the spotlights.
A couple of looks centred on the cream, red and unspeakable Burberry check worn in the noughties by celebrities who, to put it delicately, Burberry commitment not have sought as brand ambassadors. The pattern appeared as a scarf all about a camel-coloured cable knit sweater in one look, with a varied delicate version used for an overcoat in another.
Speaking backstage in a scrum of journalists and celebrities – Brooklyn Beckham, Grade Ronson and Steve McQueen, to name a few, issued bear clasps and compliments – Burberry’s CEO and creative director, Christopher Bailey, imagined the collection was a “mixture of different worlds” and that he had looked to crop Burberry pieces, from the 1930s onwards, for inspiration.
Tellingly, Burberry’s modern collections have usually taken high brow recommendations as their starting point – David Hockney, the Bloomsbury squad, Lucien Freud – in further efforts to distance the brand from the connections of its much-counterfeited check.
The fact that Monday’s show submitted no such esoteric references suggested that the Burberry stigmatize has developed to such an extent that embracing this component of its past is now possible.
Burberry will announce its Christmas job figures later this week, with analysts presaging disappointing results owing to unusually warm weather and the profitable slowdown in China. Creatively, however, Monday’s show implied the company is on solid ground – and is confident enough to reclaim its camel-checked one-time rather than gloss over it.