No sooner had yesterday’s Burberry show ended than emails started pinging into my inbox from Matches Fashion and Selfridges. New-in within seconds were the voluminous-sleeved lace blouses, asymmetrical cut-out sweatshirts, Portrait bags and deconstructed cable knits.
Not far from the show venue, in the Regent street flagship store, a similar scenario was underway. DRG’s retail editor Alison Bishop WhatsApp-ed me with a video clip of VIP clients shopping up a storm, swarming around the bags and trench coats. By the time I got home, sizes were already running low on the egg-heeled sock boots.
For the second season, Burberry created a see-now-buy-now ‘immersive experience’ at Burberry Makers House, its specially appointed venue off Charing Cross Road. The collection is inspired by the work and process of British sculptor Henry Moore and on entering the venue (after navigating a path between K-pop celeb Kris Wu and his throng of weeping fans), I was greeted first by walls of framed Henry Moore posters, then by giant spot-lit bronzes (about eight in all). Collaborating with the Henry Moore Foundation meant this wasn’t your average ‘inspired by’ collection, it was The Real Deal.
As well as showing ‘in season’ (instead of six months early), Burberry now shows its menswear and womenswear together. In fact many pieces are interchangeable. So these translate as oversized coats and shirts, shrunken knits, roomy sweatshirts and artist-style work wear. My favourite pieces were the asymmetrical oversized trench coats and sculptural sweatshirts. The egg-heeled shoes are a runaway hit but a bit too statementy for me. (I much preferred the boys’ side-lacing brogues.)
The bronzed sculptures were certainly impressive and a beautiful contextual element of the show. But post-show is when things got more interesting. Where last season’s Makers House had a host of craftspeople demonstrating their sewing, calligraphy and patchworking skills, this time we got a slightly calmer offer.
Upstairs we found an exhibition of Henry Moore sculptures, working models, maquettes and drawings. Alongside are displays of Christopher Bailey’s process. Fabric swatches, garment experiments, Polaroids and inspiration photography are arranged mood board style as last season, to offer a seamless link to the Moore exhibition.
To square the circle, from today Burberry Makers House will also host a display of the catwalk collection, plus a programme of creative events and workshops (think print making, textile printing, life drawing and a wax resist watercolour class – alas, already fully booked). Not to mention that mainstay of any great exhibition or museum – a pop-up café.
Over 20,000 people visited last season’s Makers House and I’m sure a fair few of those went on to buy a souvenir in the shape of a coat or tee. Because that’s the ultimate aim of course, to use culture to shift merchandise. If you notice Burberry ads suddenly greeting you on umpteen billboards, buses, magazines and online banner ads today, don’t think it’s a coincidence. It’s all part of the creative commerce machine.
“What’s clever about this See Now Buy Now phygital retail execution, is the way Burberry manages to translate the live emotion straight from the runway to the rails.” says Bishop. “Immediately after the in-store screening, Regent Street was buzzing with VIP guests trying on all the beautiful asymmetric knits and voluminous ruffles for size. It’s a 360 luxury brand retail experience that feels very inclusive.”
So, which piece are you going to buy?
Burberry Makers House is at 1 Manette Street London W1D 4AT. Open from 12-9pm today and 10am-9pm from 22-27th February 2017. Admission is free. More info here.
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WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl; Vogue.com
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