Hard Candy. Burberry Resort 2023

Burberry, with the Italian creative director Riccardo Tisci in charge, is one British institution which continues to believe in centering itself on border-free, non-nationalistic points of view. Tisci’s policy of turning over his pre-collections to perspectives on Burberry’s Britishness from his international network of “friends and family” is a proof of that. This season, he looked to his American friend, the artist Jared Buckhiester, to collaborate. According to notes winged from Burberry HQ, the two see eye-to-eye on looking at the brand signatures through the lens of UK rave culture – the lasting impression of the late ’90s which Tisci has held close to his heart since he studied at Central Saint Martins over 20 years ago. Maybe no one ever actually turned up to illegal warehouse raves in Kings Cross or one-nighters in the muddy fields of England looking like the people in the lookbook. The remnants of that rave past seemed to have been cleaned up and embedded, perhaps, in hybridized military bombers and tailored coats in the form of the classic Burberry trench fused with a biker jacket. But really, the Tisci /Buckhiester vision is a far more polished, lux-ed up vision of what the notes called ‘workwear,’ spiked with some glam heavy-duty black leather and contemporary twists of gender non-conformity. As part of that, there are long, tailored column skirts – or possibly maxi-aprons – that appeared to be assigned to the menswear side of the collection. There are Burberry customers with conservative tastes, or, put it this way, people who are in the market for straightforward classic clothes without any overt branding. Tisci hasn’t forgotten to design for them this season. Alongside the Burberry plaid denims, the male maxis, and some of Tisci’s hyper sexy slit skirts and curve dresses, there were moments when clean, sharp tailoring – particularly two black tuxedo jackets – stood out. With all the black leather, sometimes head-to-toe, the dark sexiness returns for good to Tisci’s repertoire. It’s something we’ve all missed since his best Givenchy years, and wanted to see again at Burberry. Finally, we’ve got it back.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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NET-A-PORTER Limited

Britishness. Burberry AW22

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.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Instinct. Burberry SS22

Riccardo Tisci appeared on the cover of last week’s edition of the magazine DSection embracing a deer and sporting droopy Bambi ears like those worn by models on his digital Burberry runway yesterday. He dedicated the collection to his beloved mother, who passed away in late August at the age of 93. “We are born from animals. We have an animal instinct that’s highly strung when we are feeling happiness or depression or sadness,” Tisci said on a video call from Milan. He wanted to give his models the same emotional expression that animals convey through their ears. “Instinct” is the magic word for Tisci at this stage in his Burberry tenure. In his last men’s collection he broke the confinements he had, to some degree, experienced, working within the brand’s highly defined heritage, and did what he does best: Riccardo Tisci. In his spring-summer 2022, things felt a bit mild. The film saw models proceeding through rooms that represented Tisci’s natural elements at Burberry: speakers for music, wind for outdoors, rave for youth, and glitter for the zhuzh. A few looks into the transfigured trench coats that opened the show – long at the front, cropped at the back – the camera panned around a model to reveal her naked derriere. With the trench territory covered, he investigated the sportswear he’s been adamant to introduce to the business, elevating and refining hoodies with cape structures and hoods that had a couture sensibility about them. Drawing on his premise of instinct, Tisci abstracted animal prints on little lightweight dresses like the butterfly motifs you get “when kids put color between two pages and they open them,” he explained. Along with those Bambi ears, it added a childlike sense of wonderment to the otherwise bold cuts that embody the very personal lines Tisci is now bringing to Burberry.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Rave Energy. Burberry SS22

It takes time for a designer (even a very renowned one) to find his voice again. Riccardo Tisci‘s first seasons at Burberry felt overdone and unedited. But lately, starting from his spring-summer 2021 collection, it seems he finally feels confident with his role at the British house and knows what his vision for Burberry really is. The spring-summer 2022 line-up is quintessentially Tisci: dark, sensual, sharp. Filmed in an urban desert landscape by the Millennium Mills in East London’s Royal Victoria Docks, Tisci’s men’s collection distilled the aesthetic so distinct to his career into his most personal Burberry show to date. There were trench and carcoat references aplenty, but in its pure expression, this was Burberry learning Tisci’s language and not the other way around. He hacked the sleeves off outerwear and re-sculpted it into warrior form, refined the raglan lines of sportswear, and managed to make a halter-neck silhouette look hunky. Combatant chest plates continued those conversations, some reduced to just a ghostly outline on a T-shirt, while the exaggerated straps of workwear conjured visions of skeletons and rib cages, bringing back those delectable Memento Mori or Día de Muertos images Tisci’s work so often evoked in the past. Lifting each color of the Nova check, he covered the whole thing in a thick, luxe, dusty blanket of beige, white, red, and black, with sky blue nods to “the only thing we’ve been able to watch” while trapped lockdown. His interpretation of Burberry’s codes – deconstructed but refined – felt so authentic to his ethos, you wondered why he hadn’t taken this route sooner. “It takes time for a designer to find the right fit when you’re working in a company. For people outside, it seems like you just go there and…” he paused. “It’s an interesting process. The bigger the team, the more interesting and tough and difficult it is. So, it’s good that we’ve arrived here. After three years, the identity is getting clear.”The pandemic has also changed Tisci’s outlook: “I feel at home, even if I’ve been in lockdown. The world is going to restart, and for me, this was fresh. It’s what we want today: expression, freedom, physical freedom; to be ourselves. It’s punk in a positive way: breaking the boundaries.” Watching the world come back to life – “and the young generation pulling crazy looks again!” – Tisci was reminded of his early twenties when he escaped to India and had his eyes opened to another reality. “I remembered my first rave in India, with Shpongle, one of the best DJs in trance music,” he said, referring to the group that also scored the show, “partying in these open spaces, with all this nature, with all these young generations from around the world, being myself and expressing myself. I come from a poor family, but raves were somewhere I could express myself and be on the same level as everybody else.” Imbuing his collection with those memories of rave, it was as if that scene was once again giving Tisci a place to freely express himself.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Femininity Now. Burberry AW21

To some designers, the slowed down pace forced by the pandemic does wonders. Riccardo Tisci‘s latest collection for Burberry is his best yet for the British brand. The autumn-winter 2021 line-up reminds of Tisci’s early work at Givenchy: dark, well-edited, elegant, and perfectly balancing the feminine and the powerful. “Re-thinking a lot” was how he described his pandemic experience. “I had time to slow down. The fashion business is very fast. It’s a huge company. I was ticking boxes, and I was like, ‘Okay, stop.’ ” Rather than over-saturating his runway with multiple market categories and menswear, Tisci presented a focused women’s collection rooted in the ferocious and sensual but viable glamour that is his (slightly forgotten by the public) signature. “Slowly we’ve built an identity, and I realized my identity was very strong within the label,” he said, evaluating his tenure at the house. “It’s the most free collection I’ve done at Burberry.” Tisci expressed it through references to the clothes historically worn in nature, most specifically around the turn of the last century. “Through history, the costume of people going to the forest has been very ‘child-designed’: a naïve outline, but made much more sensual,” he said, explaining his approach to the idea. The ease and adaptability represented by those garments inspired dresses constructed as if from squares sewn together, and transformative takes on tailoring which could be de- and reconstructed by the wearer using closing techniques. There was an arts-and-craftsy character to the collection, backed up by manipulated flag and astronomy motifs and the lashings of eco faux-fur that drove home Tisci’s nature-centric message. His post-pandemic mindset had discovered a kindred spirit in the naturalist movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which informed the collection. Fueled by the malaise of the fin-de-siècle, it was a time when instinct and whim were put above rationalism and materialism, when artists felt the call of the wild, and sought to de-program themselves from the rules of society. Before the show, Burberry released a video of a British-ly diverse crew of women reflecting on the meaning of femininity now. And the spoken-word show-opener by the British performer Shygirl, who starred as “Mother Nature,” was an homage to the waves of liberation and celebrations of identity washing over contemporary culture today. “It’s very sexy, I think, but without being vulgar. Femininity is something I really wanted to achieve at Burberry when I arrived, because it’s a very masculine company,” Tisci said, referring to the trench-tastic roots of the house. As with the progressive young generations to which his videos paid tribute, authenticity is key. For Burberry, it’s found in a menswear-y character that its female clientele probably expects. For Tisci, it’s the sensual and almost athletic glitz in which he excels. This collection showed that the two can co-exist on the same runway. As he said, “I feel like I’m starting to see my vocabulary at Burberry.” Finally.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.