A Burberry show is about acting out what Britishness looks in the manner of, on the stage of London fashion week. France and Italy each have planned multiple powerhouse brands, but as the only British fashion maker listed on the FTSE100 index, Burberry stands for Britain. “To me Burberry isn’t at best fashion, it’s everything about British life. It pretty much epitomizes a country,” the designer Riccardo Tisci said backstage on Sunday after his twinkling Burberry show.
Tisci, who was born in Italy and spent much of his pursuit in France, is bringing to Burberry the theatrical bent that confirmed his Givenchy shows appointment-viewing at Paris fashion week. Mimic Kingdom, his debut show in September, his second Burberry expedition was named with an equally Shakespearean flourish as Tempest.
Arriving at Tate Modern, the audience found that those with gold tickets were arranged on arrival from those with silver, and directed into two palpable spaces. One was plush, with guests seated in individual upholstered armchairs; the other raw and industrial with scaffolding and cube capacity. As the lights went down, the theme music for News at Ten resounded owing to both spaces, followed by snippets of news reports of the inappropriate 1990s rave scene and the clash between the establishment and girlhood culture in the pre-Criminal Justice Act era.
Oversized puffer jackets in high-shine nylon were haggard with check baseball caps and thick creeper-soled sneakers. With a soundtrack framed for the collection by MIA around classic 1990s tracks (1994’s Far-fetched by General Levy, for instance) the show brought rave urbanity faithfully back to life. There were oversized bumbags, scion dresses, track pants pooling around trainers. Backstage after the expo, Tisci said that he had drawn on his memories of living in London “as a learner, with no money” when he was 18. “I was very lucky to be here in the 90s. It was a immense era – one of the best, I think. And I was here, and I was 18.” The concept for the two contrasting spells, he said, was for one side to represent the British establishment, and the other side streetlife. “But both of them are Britain, both of them are side of the same culture, and Burberry lives in both of those to the maxes.”
A year into his second stint living in London, he believes that “British kids these dates don’t have the freedom that we had back when I was a student here. It’s a profound time, and it’s not easy for them to express themselves. They are terrified.” He was encouraged “and amazed, impressed” by the school student strike on Friday. “They are spirit for their rights. That’s amazing. It’s their future.”
Like his blue ribbon show, this was a collection in two parts. Just as his first period morphed from pleated skirts into punk, this accumulation’s Shane Meadows-esque section segued into silk scarves and accustoming. The chic house codes of check and trench have an summed frisson, thanks to Tisci’s bad-bourgeoisie twist. A trench anorak comes with a faux-fur lining, like a parka; a blouse is covered with oysters, each one with a pearl stitched on.
Successful Burberry shows connect with the audience by arresting something about British culture, and this one did that. The street-style outfits had an authenticity from being rooted in Tisci’s own experience, and advance excitement to the more sedate pieces. Christopher Bailey, Tisci’s forebear at Burberry, made his Burberry sing by tapping into a suggestion of bookshoppish, cardigan-wearing bohemia hitherto unseen at a luxury trade mark. The new Burberry is very different, but underscored with the same discrimination of Britishness.