A Safe Space for Honest Feelings About Burberry
If Daniel Lee's debut disappointed you, you're not alone. Plus much more from the London runways!
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Now, let’s talk about Burberry.
If you just read a couple of mainstream press reviews of the Burberry show, where guests were lavished with plaid blankets and hot toddies, you might come away thinking it was perfect and everyone loved it. However, behind the scenes, the reaction has been much more mixed. I have heard from fashion people who genuinely liked it, but also from others who felt the opposite. One called it “Banana Republic for nobody,” adding, “Burberry is the God’s waiting room of fashion.”
Reviewers on TikTok are generally more forthcoming, and one of my favorites, Timothy Chernyaev, who posts under @relaxitsonlyfashion, said the show was “very timid, down to the set design. Everything was very dark, blurry, and kind of hard to see. Some of the clothes were good but overall it felt pretty directionless.” He added, “The runway styling didn’t give me much insight into who they think is going to be buying these clothes. Like, the women’s evening wear felt very mature, but the casual looks reminded me of, like, a teenager shopping at Camden market.”
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This show, designer Daniel Lee’s first for the brand, may have been the most anticipated of the season. Lee replaced Riccardo Tisci, a likewise brilliant designer whose Burberry never quite took. Lee is best known for revitalizing Bottega Veneta, partly through the creation of a new bright green “It” bag. Prior to the fall 2023 show, Burberry released a new logo and campaign images created under Lee that felt ultra-modern and hugely promising for the collection itself. However, many felt Lee’s runway debut was a miss, and I don’t think it’s because he and his team at Burberry aren’t talented. I suspect it has more to do with Burberry being a British heritage brand with corporate management that have strong ideas about what should be done creatively, which probably doesn’t help the designers.
To judge Lee as a fit for Burberry based off of one runway show would not be fair. A new vision often needs a beat or two to take shape. It’s not like, say, all of Karl Lagerfeld’s early reviews for Chanel were so fantastic. But if Tisci can’t make it work and Lee can’t make it work — maybe the problem is Burberry. Lee has been tasked with doubling sales of leather goods, according to WWD, including handbags and shoes. Burberry has never been known for bags, and if I were placing bets on who could make me an “It” bag, I’d certainly look to Lee (he told WWD he’s excited to create a handbag “narrative,” which I’m sure pleased Burberry corporate).
Tim Blanks noted in Business of Fashion that the Clarks-inspired shoes, with shearling trim and a huge tongue, “all but screeched 2023 must-have.” But did much else? The brightly colored plaid looked modern, yes, but if handbag intrigue is meant to stem from engorged furry purse charms (faux, to be clear), well, I’m skeptical that this is one of those Y2K trends people are itching to revive. Cathy Horyn wrote for The Cut, “I had a general impression of too much stuff, too much merchandising and product development — and not enough of pure design. That’s where the real edge and mystery happen. But, seriously, it was a good start, [duck prints] and all.”
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