There was a nice, relaxed family gathering vibe going on under the tent Daniel Lee pitched in the park at Highbury Fields for his second Burberry show. “I thought it’s good to take people to places they don’t necessarily go, outside the obvious tourist places,” Lee said in a preview last week. “Because London is ultimately made up of neighborhoods.”
Outside the leafy local venue, there was a very English food van, dispensing Eccles cakes, Guinness bread and cups of tea—a taste of cheerful traditional Yorkshire hospitality familiar to Lee’s upbringing in the North of England. Inside, there were green park benches, quilted green horse blankets, camping bottles and a friendly convergence of the kind of guests who make multicultural London and Britain what they are today—actors, athletes, artists, footballers, rappers and musicians including Kylie Minogue, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Ackie, Jason Statham and Mo Farah.The good-natured atmosphere, somehow leveling, uplifting and a little bit jolly had nobody strutting around behaving like look-at-me superstars. Instead, there was sitting down, chatting, smiling and waving. And as we know, this is a rarity among the rigid dividing-lines of the social snobberies which normally pertain at a big brand fashion show.
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Setting a tone, a personality and a ton of subliminal messages for the British behemoth of global fashion is what Lee has been working on at speed in all directions since he arrived last year. Giving the fashion itself a clear and relevant point of view was obviously at the crux of it. Clarity and crispness was the first impression he made on the spring runway. “We’re in a kind of frame of mind of not messing around with the trench,” he said. “To keep it precious and beautiful, and not to conceptualize. The idea of neatness and sharpness.”
So in place of last season’s enveloping wintry blanket coats, here were lean, knee-length, low-belted silhouettes for city life with precisely-judged asymmetric lapels and minimal epaulettes applied across womenswear and menswear. They marched very much in sync with the emerging post-maximalist feeling for chic and easy clothes. The same feel carried through into the men’s tailoring: double-breasted two-piece tonic suits, cut as a salute to London’s Savile Row.
Lee’s overhaul of Burberry branding is an impressively smart and increasingly pervasive work in progress. In a luxury market over-saturated with logos, he’s taking the opposite tack, implanting Burberry signifiers in altogether cleverer and more subliminal ways. It started with his taking apart of the Burberry Prorsum knight on horseback logo. What look like bourgeois lady-like scarf-prints on dresses and men’s shirts and coats are actually composed of images of metal carabiner clips in the shape of the knight’s horse and heavy-duty silver chains. Abstracted shield-shapes became a brand cipher as hardware on bag straps, set into sunglasses, loafer buckles and more. Soon, people will be reading ‘Burberry’ whenever they see them.
Lee had moments, too, dedicated to English summer flowers and fruit: cascading swarms of blue strawberries, blown-up meadow-flower prints. “Because it’s definitely about taking wardrobe codes, subverting them and making them feel more London,” he said with a smile.