What did everyone make of the Burberry show last week? I loved it! After the initial buzz of the evening wore off, I canvassed some fashion industry opinion, and found the reactions to be 50/50 mixed. While Burberry is very much in favour of opening up Fashion Week to the wider public with its shop-the-runway model, in many ways I think you need to be there IRL to feel the full impact of the shows.
This was the case a couple of seasons ago for the Orlando-themed AW16 collection and again for this season’s ‘September 2017’ collection. The show took place in Old Sessions House, an empty shell of many rooms, which Christopher Bailey and Lucy Kumara Moore (of Claire de Rouen books) have taken over with an exhibition of outstanding British photography.
As with all Burberry shows, guests are urged to arrive well before show time. This is to help them relax, enjoy the exhibition and find their seats in good time for the live stream. But it also ensures guests are doing the unpaid job they’re really there to do – social the hell out of the event to help promote it and the brand.
It was lovely getting a preview of the exhibition but it also helped prime us for the collection that was to come. While I was peering at the works on one of the walls (black and white studies of raucous 1980s student balls), the photographer came to introduce himself. It was Dafydd Jones whose work I’ve been enjoying on his Instagram feed. He told me about his favourite image, a gatecrasher in stocks covered in eggs during a Cambridge ball in 1983.
On his Instagram he has been sharing a lot of work from his archive. The 80s work resonates for its nostalgic hedonism as well as the now-exotic 80s toff styling. Elsewhere was work by other British documenters – Janette Beckman, Shirley Baker, Tony Ray-Jones, Peter Marlow and Martin Parr among them.
By show time I was fully immersed in English town-to-country life and the country checks, Harrington jackets, rubber raincoats and gigantic chandelier earrings made perfect sense. Crucially, unlike, say a Gucci show, the styling wasn’t overly camp. Instead, Christopher Bailey encouraged the models to style themselves, so the effect was casually thrown together and very youthful.
In the exhibition, you’ll see that Gosha Rubchinskiy has shot a series of ‘straight-ups’, using what looks like his skater mates as models. This vibe is carried into the show and onto the Burberry website and ad campaign. It expresses very clearly Christopher Bailey’s intention to capture a cooler, younger crowd. It didn’t hurt to include K-pop stars Mino and Hoony from the boy band Winner in the front row hotseat, an essential ingredient for ensuring Brit street cred stretches across the pond.
Will this approach work? The negative reactions came from those who felt the celebration of ‘chav’ culture (symbolised by the Burberry check caps, last seen on market stalls in 2002) was a huge misstep. But others, (like me) were in favour of this fresh perspective. It’s unexpected but I don’t think it feels desperate. If you weren’t at the show, you might not get the context and storytelling of the collection, especially if you’re just viewing product on an ecommerce page. However, go to Old Sessions House and I’m convinced you’ll be utterly seduced. The exhibition is at Old Sessions House, 22 Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1 until 1st October 2017, so let me know what you think.
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WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Burberry AW17; WWD; Martin Parr/Magnum Photos/Rocket Gallery; Peter Marlow/Magnum Photos
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