The Burberry A/W 18 show, the last show under Christopher Bailey after 17 years at the brand, was hotly anticipated. His previous collection saw the resurgence of the check, re-appropriating what had been so negatively associated in the past. It was a celebration of what it means to be British, cemented by the exhibition 'Here We Are' which explored similar themes through photography and film. It was a clever and strategic move that felt youthful and switched on: a nod to the younger consumer through the Burberry house lens. With the success of that previous collection in mind, this A/W 18 collection fell a little flat.
Bailey had introduced a new check, one that incorporates the rainbow flag in support of the LGBTQ+ community, with the aim to donate to the Albert Kennedy Trust, the Trevor Project and ILGA. A noble and honourable gesture but also one of this collection's stumbles. The rainbow is supposed to be an international symbol of pride and diversity, so where was the diversity? There were no LGBTQ models, nothing that challenged the norm. Because of this, the rainbow flag felt a little gimmicky. It is incredibly important to support the LGBTQ communities and I commend Bailey for dedicating an entire collection with that intention, particularly one from such a traditional house, but just flashing a rainbow emblem is not enough to be considered inclusive or representative. Why not have an all LGBTQ+ cast wearing traditional Burberry macs? Perhaps if there had been a few rainbow check items, of which all the proceeds went to the aforementioned charities, it would feel less of a novelty? But the rainbow was everywhere. It was on cap, visor, silk shirt, elongated scarf, handbag, gilet and a giant cape/flag coat.
Some of the clothes themselves were amiss too. Puffer jackets, leggings, camo jackets, vintage scarf shirts, windbreakers; all trend pieces from seasons ago, all available at WaveyGarms in Peckham. I am in full support of taking heritage pieces and updating them for the younger market, that’s what the previous collection did so successfully, but here it felt as though the brand’s codes had been lost and the consumer had come first. A result of the see-now-buy-now perhaps? However, saying that, some shapes and silhouettes still felt true to Burberry and felt luxurious. The styling, when good, was strong. The layering of a detailed lace dress over a hoodie, for example, is a really smart way to market Burberry to a younger audience. It nods to club-culture while still encompassing luxury.
Christopher Bailey is a genius, he’s a whip-smart intellectual, his designs and what he has done for the house of Burberry - introduce see-now-buy-now, revitalise the check, take Burberry into a covetable, luxurious brand again - are unquestionable. So how did this collection misstep so? This was intended to be a celebration of his time at the house, and while the rainbow light-show and punchy eighties tunes were certainly optimistic and fun, this collection felt out of tune with what Bailey does best.