The Burberry dilemma

Burberry AW23

Wow, London Fashion Week came back big time this season. Simone Rocha, S.S. Daley, JW Anderson and Moncler were the buzziest shows, but Burberry AW23* was the one with the highest expectations. Did it deliver? Hmmm, still not sure.

There were high hopes for a repeat of Daniel Lee’s work turning around Bottega Veneta. In particular, new CEO Jonathan Akeroyd is aiming to double Burberry’s leather business, so all eyes were on the bags. For some reason, I had assumed a highly polished luxury vision, perhaps laced with some youthful street elements as teased by the pre-show campaign featuring a roster of cool Brit luvvies. But it definitely steered more Gen-Z grungy-grime than Low Key Rich Bitch.

Burberry trench aw23

After the first exit of dark green oversized trench (above), things went rapidly in the direction of a Lee-ified sexed up house check, reimagined in loud colourways; Purple! Yellow! Red! They were cut into youth-friendly kilts, metal-zipped tailored pants (very cool actually), suits, blanket scarves, bomber jackets and knits. And styled in anti-luxe, Portia-from-The-White-Lotus messy layers; skirts over trousers, trailing hems, badly tied belts.

The bags were, in fact, very solid once you extracted them from the somewhat laboured styling. The leather looked good (the bags are made in Italy), the shapes were luxurious yet relaxed and the colours (bottle green, burnt orange) were strong yet fairly timeless.

Burberry AW23
Burberry AW23
Model at London Fashion Week

Where Lee and I disagree are in the wacky accessories. I know it’s de rigeur to be ironically ugly but let’s just say knitted duck bill hats and (faux) furry-soled mules are kind of over before they’ve even begun. (Plus, didn’t Gucci do these yonks ago?) Perhaps Vanessa Friedman put it best when she summed it up with, “There was lots of TikTok catnip. What there wasn’t was a lot of emotion or big new ideas.” Not the TikTok catnip! The Cut’s Cathy Horyn said there was “too much stuff, too much merchandising and product development — and not enough of pure design. That’s where the real edge and mystery happen.”

Burberry duck hat at London Fashion Week AW23
Burberry AW23
Burberry AW23

That’s the thing, I think. For me there was no romance, no heart-pounding moments or sense of specialness. It didn’t make me want to be part of the Burberry universe. Yet, Lee isn’t naïve. Fashion is changing, the customer is younger-leaning and TikTok (whether Gen X likes it or not) is today’s communication channel. This felt like a show to grab the headlines for his debut.

I suspect subsequent collections may be more finessed and focussed on clever designs. Buyers too aren’t dumb. Looking past the gimmicks, they collectively got excited about the same things; buckled biker boots, outerwear, the new check, cross body bags and all of the blankets.

Bright Trench Coat
patterned trench coat at London Fashion Week
Burberry AW23

As Jonathan Anderson told The Guardian, “British fashion now can’t be tweed skirts … we can’t hide behind history and heritage”. So, maybe we’d better learn to like the meme-worthy Wallabees and “witty” duckcore for the time being. As that notable British sage, Basil Fawlty once said, “If you don’t like duck, you’re rather stuck”. Seems like we’re stuck with it!

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Burberry AW23
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links* and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

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