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Burberry, a heritage versus street dilemma

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

18 Sep 2019

The thing about design, and fashion in particular, is it can never please everyone. Brands cannot be all things to all people.

Fashion metamorphoses are tricky

To be steeped in heritage one moment, like at Burberry, who's premise of quintessential Britishness has been the stalwart of its existence since the late 1800s, and subsequently be rebirthed into a new contemporary being - all cutting edge street and digital youth - is tricky.

In the case of Burberry, it was ushered into a new era when Ricardo Tisci took over the creative helm three seasons ago, though not with the same carte blanche execution demanded by Hedi Slimane at Celine. Tisci has put his own stamp on the brand, while presumably requiring to satisfy the commercial needs of the next generation of global fashionistas. The transformation began with identity reassignment and a logo refresher a year ago and through several iterations we arrive at London Fashion Week for Burberry's SS20 show called "Evolution". All monochrome tailoring, directional streetwear and less bygone era Burberry.

Words without meaning

"The first season I was putting out letters, an alphabet, the second season I started to write, this season I feel that I am writing a good or bad book about what I am doing at Burberry," Ricardo Tisci, Burberry's Chief Creative Officer, told AFP backstage after his SS20 outing at London Fashion Week.

Of course nobody expects Tisci to propose eternal deconstructions of the beige trench with a checked lining. Branded sportswear is what is selling across global markets, so says everyone and their data, but is that shopper looking to Burbery for oversized streetwear and sweats or are the commercial eyes at Burberry looking to attract the customer shopping for streetwear and sweats? It's back to the dilemma of brands being all things to all shoppers.

"We are keeping aiming at luxury but we are not forgetting the street," Tisci told Vogue. "There is the queen but there was always the rebellion, the skinheads, the punks, so you have this clash, the two sides."

If "evolution" was the title of the show, it wasn't a gradual progression, more radical and all-encompassing, from sharp tailoring in monochrome grey, to Italian lace and bedazzled trench coats, to urban club kids in sporty parkas and branded sweats.

There was a conscious effort to be luxe which was well suited to the brand. Tisci has a keen eye for fabric, having cut his teeth at Givenchy where he gave it sophistication and modernity, something that will bode well at Burberry.

Truth be told, the collection offered something for everyone. There was evening wear and traditional suiting, plenty of outerwear both classic and street style, scarves a la Hermes - draped and printed with tiger heads - and enough branded accessories to ensure sales. The ubiquitous trench was not forgotten, one came embellished in crystals and was worn by former Burberry face Agyness Deyn. Another, a floor-length sweeping trench worn over denim by Freja Beha Erichsen in Look 16, was the star of the show.

Image credit: Burberry SS20, Catwalkpictures