London Fashion Week: At Burberry, a Focus on Craft and Clicks

Burberry Spring 2017

CEO and Creative Director Christopher Bailey continues his streak as a tech-minded industry innovator, selling direct from the runway clothes that felt touched by human hands.

It's no secret that Burberry has been the forward-thinking leader of the fashion industry when it comes to technology. The British brand had its own app before it was a blip on any other designer’s radar, Burberry was one of the first to live-stream its runway shows online and last September, CEO and Creative Director Christopher Bailey turned the industry on its head by making the decision to transition to a see-now-buy-now business model, selling clothes direct from the runway.

As of Tuesday, customers can shop Burberry via Facebook Messenger, use the app to “unlock exclusive content” and even book a cab to their nearest Burberry store. As the fashion industry moves away from an elitist, some may say outdated model of exclusive shows for editors and buyers, Burberry is bringing fashion to the public in a fully immersive experience.

And yet Monday’s Spring 2017 London Fashion Week show was an especially intimate affair, harking back to a couture-style salon presentation in the brand’s Maker’s House gallery, on the site of a former bookshop in Soho. In a collaboration with the Henry Moore Foundation, iconic sculptures dotted the runway and paved the way for a structured collection with an emphasis on the human form that worked especially well with Bailey’s tailoring. From the invitations carved out of stone to the handmade wicker chairs lining the catwalk, craftsmanship was the focus of the day.

Penelope Cruz, Naomi Campbell and Samantha Cameron took to their seats as British singer Anna Calvi performed live above their heads. Burberry is known for sourcing young, up-and-coming U.K. singers and giving them a platform in the industry. In the brand’s typical style, Calvi’s single is already available to download through the Burberry Apple Connect page on Apple Music.

But back to the clothes: a neutral palette of mostly white, black and Burberry's signature trench coat ecru left the cut to do the talking. The garments themselves were classic, wearable shirt dresses, coats and knitwear. This allowed for the mastery to shine through in the details. Extra-long sleeves, twisted seams, asymmetric necklines and all the gathering, ruching, and ruffling imaginable showed a human hand and an emphasis on craft. 

Bailey himself echoed the work of the sculptor, molding each piece around the body for a deconstructed look that felt modern, wearable and edgy. Some of the menswear could be considered slightly questionable from a commercial standpoint: Will the Burberry male customer wear a sheer lace T-shirt? Maybe not, though the arty prints were fun.

The true showstoppers were in the finale though, as each of the 78 relatively simple looks re-emerged, adorned with a handmade sculpted cape, each one individually named like a work of art. The focus was on the shoulders, exaggerating epaulets to an extreme with piled-on ostrich feathers, enormously structured pleats or hand-sewn crystals as far as the eye could see. 

In true Burberry style, these capes are already on display Tuesday at Maker’s House, alongside the Moore exhibition. Open to the public Feb. 21-27, the exhibition will tour the globe with planned stops in Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles. In London, Burberry will also host art workshops in live drawing, textile design and more, encouraging the public to get as much of a Burberry (and fine art) fix as it possibly can.