Manette Street, a small road seconds away from London’s Soho Square, is packed to the rafters with curious onlookers. The occasion? Burberry’s staging of its latest presentation at Makers House, a sprawling five-storey building that sits by the lane and once housed the famous Foyles bookstore. It is the second last night of London Fashion Week and Burberry is pulling out all the stops to ramp up anticipation for the collection. Word has it that Kris Wu, the brand’s Chinese ambassador who boasts more than 4.5 million followers on Instagram, will be attending the show. Necks straining, cameras ready at hand, his fans have crowded in front of the entrance to get a glimpse of their favourite heartthrob.
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Meanwhile, inside Makers House, hulking sculptures and a host of other contemporary art pieces by Henry Moore decorate the historic site. And for good reason: Considered one of the most important British artists of the 20th century, Moore will be honoured tonight via a ready-to-wear collection largely inspired by his works. “Henry Moore’s art has always loomed large in my imagination,” explains Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer. “These great, iconic figures in the British landscape, elemental sculptures that manage also to be human, soft and approachable. I’ve always found them moving; I think perhaps because they manage to be so monumental and yet so personal, so public and yet so private at the same time.”
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The late artist’s work eventually led Bailey to think about “scale, proportion, texture, patina and shape” for Burberry’s February 2017 collection, the second in its “see-now, buy-now” series. “We looked at the contradictions in Moore’s work, between power and gentleness, heaviness and lightness, familiarity and abstraction,” he adds. Beyond the clothes, contrast manifested in other subliminal ways: For a brand with 161 years of heritage, Burberry’s embrace of cutting-edge technology to advance itself is remarkable. It is in this old-meets-new approach, of translating the beauty of something everlasting (in this case, Moore’s art) for instant gratification, that makes Burberry’s strategy leagues ahead of its competitors.
As musical strains from the show’s soundtrack performed by Anna Calvi, her band and members of the Heritage Orchestra and Choir begin to fill up the venue, Bailey and his design team’s interpretation of Moore’s oeuvre materialise in a poetic collection. The opening look, a pristine double-faced wool twill coat, riffs on Burberry’s classic trench coat—except Bailey has given it extra wide lapels and an asymmetric hemline not unlike the architectural lines found on Moore’s figures.
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More displays of geometric irregularity cut to precision follow, whether taking the forms of cable knit pullovers deconstructed as snug off-shoulder tops or sweaters configured into comfortable dresses. Shirting remains sharp and crisp; elegant double cuffs, for example, extend past jacket sleeves, while shirts in striped or chaste white denominations are finished with delicate lace.
Ruffles explode down one arm of a cotton and lace dress, steadily building up the momentum for a grand reveal of 78 dramatic capes—a rousing finale that’s snapped on phones to be shared and shopped instantly at the press of a button. Heritage and art meet technology and commercialism… This is fashion in the 21st century.
Photographed by Georges Antoni
Styled by Windy Aulia
Models: Meghan Murie/FiveTwenty, Alise Murie/FiveTwenty
Makeup: Peter Beard/The Artist Group
Hair: Darren Borthwick/The Artist Group
Hair colourist: Monique McMahon/QUE Colour
Producer: Camille Peck/The Artist Group
Photographer’s first assistant: Oly Begg
Photographer’s second assistant: Melissa Robinson
Digital assistant: Jon Calvert
Styling assistant: Nayeun Kim