Burberry Spring/Summer 2021
Photo: Burberry

Burberry kicks London Fashion Week (and Fashion Month in general as the first big brand to stage a major happening) with an audience-free show in the woods that is part runway presentation and part performance art. The performance art equation is courtesy of Riccardo Tisci‘s new collaborator, the art world darling Anne Imhof, known for her arresting endurance pieces and installations. The new normal we live in seems to have lent a new focus to Tisci’s work. His spring summer 2021 collection is a much tighter edit than usual, coming in at less than 60 looks compared to his typical 100-plus, making for a much more compelling proposition. 

Related article: London Fashion Week: 10 Best Looks From Burberry Spring/Summer 2020

Burberry Spring/Summer 2021
Photo: Burberry

Where he previously split his Burberry shows into “street” and “sophisticate” sections, this time around he blended the two. The central narrative is an imagined love story between a mermaid and a shark (a Tisci mainstay)—the dreamy colliding with the dangerous, the romantic with the savage. Taking inspiration from the sea, the predominant colour was a painterly blue. The House’s signature trenchcoat this season was reimagined with loop-back lapels, graphic cut-outs, and denim panels and tails. Elsewhere, rubberised cottons and boiler suits nodded to the seafarer’s uniform, while crystal-studded fishnets and fluid crystal mesh dresses evoke the mermaid’s mythic glamour.  

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While the collection was one of Tisci’s strongest at Burberry to date, it was a shame that much of it was lost in the Twitch livestream (an industry-first). The camerawork was undeniably impressive, but it lingered much more on Imhof’s white-clad dancers whose bodies moved in ritualistic ebbs and flows, pulling apart one moment and crashing together the next like waves. A later version posted onto YouTube did the clothes more justice but even a designer of Tisci’s talent and stature might find it a bit of an ask to command an hour and a half of attention span—both the Twitch livestream and the YouTube video came in at almost 30 minutes, while a pre-show confab between Erykah Badu, Bella Hadid, Rosalia and Steve Lacy ate up another 30. Minor gripes aside, it was a more-than-solid first effort for the brand’s first Covid-era show and we can’t wait to see where Tisci takes us next.