It was a hot and humid day in a gray industrial area in south-east London, but Riccardo Tisci was determined to go to the beach. Little surprise, as the trip was delayed by nine days and there were bumps in the road to get there.
This season is intended to herald a star-studded return to Burberry’s London Fashion Week after a few years of absence from the calendar. It is rumored that Mr Tisci, the creative director of Burberry, Britain’s largest luxury brand by revenue, is planning a show at one of the city’s most historic landmarks, The Square Trafalgar.
But after that Queen Elizabeth II passed away. When Britain fell into a period of national mourning, many plans fell through. Most brands have chosen to continue. Burberry postponed. On the day of the new show, September 26, usually a day to travel from the Milan shows to Paris, most of the fashion’s traveling circuses returned to London.
And with a few exceptions – despite alternate locations and incessant drizzle – everyone takes it seriously. There’s Kanye West, in black socks and diamond-studded flip-flops. In addition, British rapper Stormzy, actor Daniel Kaluuya and the entire London Contemporary Orchestra, sat with their instruments and dressed in white shirts, black suits and baseball caps. Ready for a collection that Mr Tisci, in his show notes, said was inspired by British waters. Not cliffs or sand or seashells, but “the beach as a pillar of society, a focal point of humanity”.
“In summer, in the UK, the beach is a place of democracy, of community, where people from all cultures can come together for simple pleasures,” the note reads.
Perhaps more than any other fashion brand, Burberry has defined what Britain looks like to the rest of the world. The question Mr Tisci has faced since he arrived at the house in 2018 is how to sell Burberry when the British mood is so unpredictable and unclear.
His latest vision comes with some of the world’s most famous models: Naomi Campbell, Irina Shayk, Karen Elson, Erin O’Connor, Bella Hadid and Mariacarla Boscono. They and other models in sleek-looking outfits explore the state of beach dressing – or undressing – in a country where social class often turns to distinctive sartorial rules and to seasonal weather. Summer is notoriously bleak.
Oversized jeans, with a jacket tied loosely around the waist in case the clouds roll in, are teamed with a sexy off-the-shoulder top or a diamanté strap bikini and two matching pockets that tie at the biceps like swim floats. (With global inflation on the brain, this idea also seen at Moschino in Milan.) Heel-length dresses in various colors and textures come with large round holes cut around the bikini line.
Of course, there have been various remakes of Burberry’s signature gabardine groove and famous plaid (notably another string bikini and hand bag, paired with a printed jumpsuit). There’s also some black-cut Victoriana leather tights, printed soccer jerseys and a range of sleek looks, with bras and subtle knit overlays, intentionally pleated for reflections. The wrinkles of clothes are really loved and lived in.
Britain’s beaches can be pretty bleak – so is Britain right now – but overall there is playfulness and resilience to an air of tension.
“I wanted to show solidarity and fun, that fact,” Mr. Tisci wrote in the note.
However, his words feel disconnected from the reality shown. As the ominous outburst of the orchestra rolls the finale to the runway, it’s a seaside visit that feels bleak, almost dreary.