There is always great anticipation at a Burberry show. Its track record of high production value always has the guests looking above to see what might just descend on them next. Rain? Snow? Petals? It is an unprecedented spectacle each time. But this season, the pressure is magnified. It is after all the first show since Christopher Bailey's new appointment as CEO and Chief Creative Officer of the multi-billion dollar business, a step almost unheard of. It also did not help that the last menswear show that was inspired by David Hockney opened to a round mixed reviews. It is much to Bailey's credit then that he rose to the occasion with formidable fortitude, reminding us exactly why he is boss.
For Fall/Winter 2014, Burberry takes us on a 'painterly journey' that saw artists walking down the runway with their many canvasses. There was an abundance of art history references ranging from nuances of Marinetti's Futurist movement to quasi-Impressionist floral strokes, to Art Nouveau motifs. The trenchcoat, a Burberry staple, which is rarely tainted with patterns, let alone graphics (with the exception of the Burberry's own checks), are suddenly artfully adorned with constructivist prints like in look number 2.
Even the structure of the coats are softened with a romantic touch. They drape elegantly off the models' round shoulders and crush poetically under their pocketed hands, giving off more of an effect of oversized silk shirts than good old military trench coats. In contrast, oversized outerwear clad in Bloomsbury prints were also introduced in rich tonal hues. But it was pyjamas stripes trench coats that stole the show - they embodied the relaxed luxury of the collection best. The silhouette is a clear departure from last season's geeky buttoned-up short sleeved shirts. Instead a basic mesh vest is worn under a fluid trench coat and a knotted scarf. The ensemble moved like water and the models glided; Burberry has not been this romantic since Spring/Summer 2009.
To boot, silk scarves were used in a style never seen on the Burberry catwalk before. Arguably it could be a new product category the brand is seeking to develop but as far as show went, it accentuated the image of the 'artist' and brought the story forward. Many of the scarves had semblances of hand drawn maps from antiquity, a nice nostalgic touch that is yet another Burberry signature.
It brings to mind time spent walking down 'Les Bouquinistes a la Seine', the quaint book stalls along the river in Paris where you'd typically find maps, watercolour paintings and antique books. How un-British of Burberry but perhaps with 'travel' as part of the show's theme it is not completely farfetched. In fact, looking beyond solely London and its British heritage is refreshing . Accessories received a similar breath of fresh air. Carpet bags like canvasses bearing a different design with each look are an extension of the Orchard bag, a shape first introduced in Burberry's womenswear collection. The men's variation seen today has more depth and makes a perfect keep all hand luggage for this proverbial journey.
Christopher Bailey could not have picked a better theme to anchor the show given the brand's recent drastic reshuffle. An artist's journey defines Bailey's trajectory so far and if today's show was a benchmark of what's to come, it bodes well for Burberry. The show closed with a spectacular curtain call of an army of models shouldering graphic blankets in vivd colours, reinterpreted off the classic check. It was a symbolic gesture of carrying forward the legacy of the house with renewed energy. Somewhere in the Apple office, former CEO Angela Ahrendts, must be smiling cheek to cheek.