Is it possible for a fashion label to erase gender lines completely? Imagine this ensemble: blue/white striped button down shirt under a lime green silk pajama top (only the top button fastened) over which is a dusty green crushed velvet blazer with roomy burnt orange crushed velvet trousers and dark suede shoes. Men’s look or women’s look?
Yes. Either. Both. Through the vast number of the 83 looks in this men’s/women’s autumn/winter collection there is no gender designation other that than of the model wearing the ensemble, and even then one couldn’t always be too certain. Chief creative officer Christopher Bailey did his best to blur the gender line as often as possible and more often than not he was successful. As a result, we see shirt/tops with plunging necklines, ruffles on collars and sleeves more than anywhere else, both genders carrying handbags, men wearing yellow brocade, and women wearing anything they please.
Bailey also seems to be trying to blur the lines as to when a garment should be worn. Daywear mixes with lingerie mixes with pajamas mixes with eveningwear, often in the same look as we go through this collection. There are no rules as to how one dresses. You find a piece of clothing, you put it on. There are no limits to the number of layers, either. If it won’t button, or has no button, just secure it with a studded belt.
Is this the wave of the future? Can fashion push us closer to a true androgyny? We’ll need more than this one Burberry line for that to happen. In many ways, this collection is a look back. Based upon Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando, the looks have elements stretching from the late 18th century through contemporary styling, again, often in the same ensemble. If one is familiar with the strange timeline of the book such an approach makes perfect sense. Without that knowledge, though, some can appear a bit forced.
Of course, the big news here is that all the looks are already on sale. You can order yours now and it will be to you in a matter of days. Bailey started a year ago re-tooling their entire structure in order to accommodate the see-now, buy-now concept of fashion immediacy. While there are plenty of others who have done the same thing, Burberry is easily the largest brand to take on the shift in strategy.
As such, this was also the most highly-anticipated show of the entire season. Milan and Paris will have to produce some incredible showmanship just to keep up with the pace that has been set by New York and London. With a complete chamber orchestra and vocal ensemble performing live and the daunting decor of Burberry’s new show space, to call this event spectacular just might be an understatement.
I’ve really only one complaint about the whole thing. Bailey, once again, makes heavy use of military themes. I understand the connections to the book, but there is a limit. At times it felt more as though he were costuming a performance of Les Miserables rather than producing a fashion show. There were enough waistcoats in this collection to staff a four-star restaurant. While I know from experience how heavy and warm those garments are, Bailey might not find them quite as popular as he expects. They quickly become too cumbersome and uncomfortable to be practical.
Beyond that one minor issue, though, this Burberry collection did a fantastic job of living up to the hype. I am truly worried that Milan and Paris could be a let down by comparison. We’ll just have to see.