It's been a long time since the manicured green expanse of Kensington Garden's West Lawn felt anything like a summer meadow. But Burberry, whose vast greenhouse tent occupied most of the lawn today, is at heart a rural brand -- and its designer, Yorkshire-born Christopher Bailey, always seems happiest when he finds a bridge between his label's Britpop attitude and a sense of soft countryside romance.
So there were dragonflies and bumble bees (as vast stained-glass silhouettes, crawling all over the transparent ceiling). There were blurred, watercolored flowers, drifting across summer dresses. And there were gorgeously delicate frocks made from fans of pleated tulle, in tangles of orchard tones.
The last time Bailey visited this theme was in Summer 2009's "Garden Girls" collection, where he matched the same soft prettiness to a tangibly earthy evocation of a real gardener's world: bedraggled ombre colors, drooping lines, battered textures.
But Burberry, in the space of those five years, has become a very different animal: polished and cosmopolitan, and fluently global. So today's garments came with furred collars and gloss-panelled denim jackets, and exuberantly vibrant accessories -- all positioning the aesthetic firmly in an international language. It was hard not to miss the older aesthetic, just a little; but by the end, when the models shrugged off their jackets and the tousled, delicately melancholy dresses were allowed to breathe on their own, then the language Bailey has created shone clear: to borrow a Norman Parkinson title, it felt like A Very British Glamour.
At the end, the audience flowed out of the carpeted tent, and into the cavalcade of waiting silver cars. As they moved away slowly through the park, they passed avenues of horse chestnut, lime and plane trees: all the dappled colors Bailey had distilled from nature into his clothes. The collection's heart --and his -- are still in the right place.