All the major fashion cities have that one show that no one wants to miss. In New York, it’s Marc Jacobs. In Milan, it’s Armani. In Paris, it’s Chanel. Out of all of them, though, none are quite as important, quite the spectacle, nor quite as important to national pride as is London’s Burberry Prorsum show. Perennially set in Burberry’s exclusive Kensington Garden’s show place, nothing else compares to the level of glamour, the level of elegance, nor the level of social importance as does this one show. Others may be more creative, more colorful, more original and/or more interesting, but when Christopher Bailey’s fashion hits the runway, all of Britain stops to watch. There really is no comparison in the US to help me explain just how incredibly important this one show is to the whole country.
The front row to this show is also the biggest A-list one is likely to find anywhere. Musicians, actors, editors, socialites, and pretty much everyone short of the royal family is on this front row [note: the royal family does not attend fashion week events because doing so would imply royal endorsement of the brand, which they try to avoid. It would also present a security nightmare.]. The music for these presentations is always live and locally notable. Previous seasons, we’ve seen solo acoustic guitar and small bands, but this year Bailey went budget busting and brought in members of the London Symphony to accompany bluesy contralto Alison Moyet, who is hugely popular across the UK. Set right smack in the middle of the runway, the event was as much concert as it was fashion show. As one looked up and down the grandstands, it was difficult to tell at times whether guests were enjoying the music or the fashion more.
As for the clothes, Bailey again went toward the darker side, with a plethora of black ensembles and coats and bags and shoes. Most were trimmed in brass or gold-coloured brocade, and gold was also his preferred color for ensembles contrasting with all the black. There were exceptions, of course, especially in the abbreviated menswear portion of the collection, but they were few and frequently hidden under coats.
Lace and mesh take a dominant role in this collection, for both women and men. Womenswear hardly had a single look that didn’t have mesh or lace somewhere, with large rectangle mesh being the dominant choice. He even used mesh for the shoes in a number of looks. What wasn’t mesh or lace tended to be soft, slinky, stay-close-to-the-skin satin that just enhanced the sensuality of the whole set. In fact, once one removes those big coats, this really is the sexiest collection we’ve seen from the traditionally conservative house. Given recent changes in the political landscape in Britain, one might wonder if the styles are not somewhat a reflection of a more liberal and relaxed attitude in the whole country.
Burberry also gives us one of the most diverse runways in London, with almost 30 percent of the looks being worn by non-caucasian models, While this falls short by US standards, it is ahead of the game for London, so we’ll give them a 6 out of 10 on our diversity scale.
For all that preparation and planning and expense, the whole thing is done and over with in less than thirty minutes. Ms. Moyet sang four songs which was about two minutes longer than the actual runway presentation. You’ll not hear anyone complaining, though. London goes nuts over Burberry unlike anything else. They seem to be quite pleased with this collection and Burberry is feeding that obsession by offering runway looks available online through October 5. You may want to hurry.