In 1856, young Thomas Burberry set out to equip local sportsmen from a small outfitter’s shop in Basingstoke, England. He made his name by inventing gabardine, a waterproof, tightly woven cotton inspired by the loose linen smocks worn by English shepherds and farmers. And by the early 1900s, business was booming in the Burberry emporium on London’s Haymarket street. The firm gained prestige by outfitting high-profile Antarctic explorers, aviators, and mountaineers. And, in addition to kitting out more humble seekers of adventure – golfers, skiers, horsemen – it soon got into the business of fine everyday outerwear, too. It’s an unmistakably British brand, and in 2022, it’s really worth digging into a brand’s heritage and redefining its codes. After seven full seasons, Riccardo Tisci is finally on (what seems to be) the right path. For the autumn-winter 2022 fashion show, presented a few days after fashion month’s finale in London’s Central Hall Westminster, guests stood massed together in the dark, shuffling back to give way to Tisci’s supermodels, friends, and artist-celebrities as they descended from somewhere high up in the wood-paneled auditorium. Clad in the spectrum of Tisci’s ideas about global, generational, and gender non-conforming realities, British tradition and, of course, Burberry checks and trenches, they climbed up to pose on tables which were set with silver and crystal, as if for a country-house dinner. “It’s a reconstructed collection of what I find in Burberry, and what I’ve been living as human in this moment in Britain too,” Tisci said before the show. “It’s a different perspective – you know, the way you feel things was a very deep different journey.” That stood as an explanation for the leveling, everyone-together breaking of catwalk convention, except that the event simultaneously managed to be a bombastic reclaiming of Burberry’s corporate position, a landmark of the British fashion business with global reach. So two collections came out – a menswear one and the women’s. For women, he ran the gamut of trench-and-check daywear through to grand ballgowns, segueing though deconstructed evening trenchcoats. He said he’d pulled it together by focusing on country waxed and quilted coats, and pulling out the symbol of the Burberry Prorsum knight on horseback. There were blanket-skirts and tartan capes, as well as old-school, fleecy twinsets. The designer reflected on how he was initially daunted by paying tribute to Britishness, but now feels much freer about applying his own instincts. “I was scared,” he admitted. “You know, as an Italian, Britain is important – it’s a such an historical country, with so much to say. So at the beginning, it was like the first kiss. It takes time, you know. And now I find my own way.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.