Lovely weather for ducks! When the British bump into one another in a driving downpour, that’s the politely ironic greeting they’ve been exchanging for generations—especially in the North, from whence Daniel Lee hails. Was it his wink to that idiom the reason he snuck so many duck prints into his debut collection for Burberry? One of them, a sort of DIY-punk bird painted graphic, came printed on t-shirts beneath the slogan THE WINDS OF CHANGE.
“I thought that was funny. You have to have a bit of humor,” he remarked when journalists bore down on him backstage. “You know, it’s change for me, change for the brand, and change for the positive thing.” Well, wind, rain and Britishness all run together in the trenchcoat culture that is the essence of Burberry. And Lee knows all about the meaning of being British, and about being a creative director with a track-record for making a brand catnip for young people, as he did in his last job at Bottega Veneta.
He primed the pump with a first showing that foregrounded cold weather and the outdoors, played with the Burberry check, and piled on fake fur-trimmed accessories. It started with a bit of a fog on the runway, as the audience cozied on blankets and was served hot toddies. Then a woman, followed by a man, both wearing long army-green raincoats and clutching Burberry plaid-covered hot-water bottles came on.
“I think that the brand is about functionality,” Lee said. He played with that idea, focusing much more on the core of youthful, bias-checked, easy-to-sling-on utilitarian outerwear than Riccardo Tisci had done in the past few years. His men’s plaid trousers, with their horizontal zippered pockets, echoed the shape of technical hiking gear; women’s kilts had the casual air of wrapped-around picnic blankets. You might even really be able to go for a walk on the Yorkshire moors in his heavy-duty climbing boots or cropped wellies.
Even if not, Lee well knows the worldwide fashion appeal of the exaggerated accessory. It showed up all over the place, in a giant trapper hat, in satchels and saddlebags fastened with a “B” clip and dangling multiple fake-fur “tails.” One chap was wearing a hilarious hand-knitted bonnet in the shape of a duck, complete with a beak and dangling red legs. Yes, indeed, there are British lads who go out to pubs and rugby games wearing such things for a laugh. A bonkers English eccentricity now transformed into a Burberry fashion lure for international TikTokkers—you can bet on that.
Lee can have a bit of fun, but he’s also very serious about branding and exactly how it can radiate fashion appeal far beyond the mere stamping of logos on everything. The evidence is in the message he delivered at this show on the back of his redesign of the Burberry Prorsum medieval knight on a charger. It was blown up like a flag on a white dress. The shape of the graphic dynamically signals “trad with mod,” and it’s catchy.
But the main point about it is the color. It’s a vibrant blue. So is the type that Burberry now uses. So were the multiple window-pane check coats, a sweater, a big cozy wrap that Lee showed one after the other. Soon, it dawned on some of the audience that it was also sitting on plaid blankets in the very same blue. Then the other half of the audience became very envious, because they weren’t, and they suddenly really wanted to be.
Then you realized: a Daniel Lee color phenomenon was taking place right there and then. He did it before to such an extent that the whole world copied it. Now, though, it’s certain: blue is the new green!
BY SARAH MOWER
February 20, 2023