Back in the heyday of Blogspot, there were few destinations better than Goths in Hot Weather. The niche website specialized in real-world snapshots of fully-dressed and made-up goths defying “the day star” and engaging in regular summer activities such as garden parties, sunny café lunches, and days at the beach. It’s a universal phenomenon, but—due to this country’s high concentration of goths—perhaps a particularly British one. After five years in England, Riccardo Tisci (so often labeled “goth” by the fashion press at the dawn of his career) has gained a better understanding of the intricacies and eccentricities of British society—such as the beach and summer culture that inspired his spring collection for Burberry.
“British summer is very different to anywhere else in the world, because Britain is basically built on big cities on the water. That means you really see people dressing on the beach, because you never know when it’s going to rain or when there’s going to be sun. The beauty is the goth on the beach, like these kids we filmed the other day,” he said after the show, referring to the show’s goth-tastic teaser filmed in Margate. “Or, you’ll see a wedding, or someone who’s gone there at lunch time to read. It’s all different personalities.” Since Tisci brought a more sensual spirit to Burberry, its swimsuits have risen to best-seller status. That fact, mixed with his homage to the beach-going goth, created a collection of swimwear fusions and hybrids.
Working with a cast that included some of Britain’s most famous models—Naomi Campbell, Karen Elson, Erin O’Connor—Tisci incorporated swimsuit elements like bikinis and bathing suit cut-outs into dresses and tailoring, which simultaneously incorporated the trademarks of the goth wardrobe: lace, netting, perforation, gothic fonts, and crinkled negligees he attributed to the punk era that paved the way. De- and reconstructed outerwear evoked the dress codes of the industrial corner of the goth population, with dissected hoods and sleeves tied around the waists of trench coats and three-piece suits with big-buttoned gilets replacing the traditional vest.
For all the humorous references that informed the collection, the show was a solemn affair. After Burberry canceled its original presentation during London Fashion Week out of respect for the national mourning period that followed the death of the Queen, Tisci squeezed the show in on the Monday between Milan and Paris. Presented in a naked warehouse in Bermondsey—the London Contemporary Orchestra lined up in the middle of the space—it unfolded in complete silence before the soprano opera singer Nadine Sierra broke out in a poignant aria. It wasn’t until the finale that the orchestra joined in. “It was a moment of respect. She was the queen of the world—every country respected her,” Tisci said.
“In England, you always have this contrast: the street and the royalty. And I think today was that,” he added. Those were pretty much the words Tisci used to describe his first show for Burberry back in September 2018. If it’s something of a cliché, his view of British culture has clearly broadened since then. Compared to his debut show, this collection offered a less literal and more nuanced approach to its subject matter, and portrayed it through garment construction that has assumed a much more complex nature in the four years he has spent at the house. Rather than looking at the general characteristics of England, he now looks at corners of British society that resonate with his own experiences and aesthetic.
“I’m very happy because I’ve found myself, and I find it very respectful for Burberry,” he said. “It’s not ticking a box, but elaborating on what Burberry has been famous for, for so long: the check, the trench coat, the car coat, and a lot of bags. At the moment our bags are doing well, which is nice to support.” He presented them alongside trademarks from his career pre-Burberry: shark earrings and crown-of-thorns necklaces; his own iconographic stamps now embedded in the genetics of Burberry forever.