It’s been two weeks since I saw Burberry’s September Collection at London fashion week. To call the show a game-changer would be an understatement. It was the launch of the brand’s highly anticipated see-now, buy-now operation, which set out a new model for the industry even before the first look went down the runway. The discussion on this strategy, spearheaded by Christopher Bailey with other brands following closely behind, has successfully overshadowed almost everything else happening in the realm of high fashion. Immediate merchandise availability became the hottest topic in fashion, creating a polarising debate amongst fashion insiders around the world.
But Bailey has always been one who walks the walk and talks the talk. Burberry’s September collection’s simultaneous live telecast and shopping events around the world had an unprecedented result. It’s been reported that sales on their ready-to-wear pieces alone spiked within a few days after the show. Kudos, of course, to the House’s superb logistic and communication teams. Burberry’s September Collection garnered plenty of coverage, making it onto front covers of major fashion publications across the globe. The word is out and it’s loud: You can buy the pieces you see on the runway, online, and on the pages of your beloved magazines, right away from a Burberry boutique near you.
But what many didn’t share is that the immediacy alone was not necessarily what moved customers to pick up a trench coat and run to the tills. Other secret ingredients were in the mix that made Burberry’s September Collection so special. Here’s the skinny…
A Stitch in Time
Unlike in the past, when Bailey was a lot more abstract in his approach to Burberry’s runway collection, the September Collection was much more definitive. Centred on Orlando: A Biography, the iconic tome by Virginia Woolf, the literary inspiration allowed him a wealth of references. Arguably Woolf’s most popular novel and one of feminism’s most important scripts, the book’s plot sees the heroine travel through time (from the Elizabethan period to the turn of the century) and swapping genders throughout the pages.
Just like that, Bailey hit the nail on the head, twice. Covering gender fluidity issues and paying tribute to English history—two topical narratives that have taken the fashion world by storm—coupled with Burberry’s typical avant-gardism on technology and social media, and you got a lethal combination to excite any fashion enthusiast.
God Save the King
It has been a tradition of Bailey’s to shine the spotlight on all things Brit at Burberry, but the September Collection took it to another, grander level, to say the least.
An homage to the Golden Age of Elizabeth I, check. Flipping pages of the Bloomsbury Group’s playbook, check. Collaborating with local artisans making handmade Made in England objects, check. Call it a homecoming, but Burberry’s September Collection pledged Bailey’s strong allegiance to the United Kingdom. And at a time when other designers have been looking to the British Empire for inspiration (read: Pioneer undertones, the Union Jack, down to the punk movements seen on the runways of Milan and Paris), Bailey is the one with a royal flush. After all, who better to talk about English quirks than the Englishman himself?
X Marks the Spot
The mother lode of all this is that underneath the collection’s multiple layers of references, there are covetable pieces aplenty. Ruffles rate high on the spring/summer trend scale, and there are options in abundance at Burberry’s September Collection, whether they are peeping through high-necked collars or extra-long French cuffs—on both boys and girls. Pyjama dressing is still going strong, and Bailey sent out his in stripes and prints, then took the boudoir trend further by styling silk robes belted on top of shirts and shorts.
Shakespearean smock shirts reigned supreme, reiterating the literary movement. On that note, there were flourishes of damask and jacquard on pants, tapestry print on jumpers, as well as devoré and lace dresses showing slivers of skin to evoke the delicate English Rose.
Outerwear, a Burberry staple, had a Renaissance moment, coming in a bomber style decoratively printed in fin-de-siecle upholstery motifs. The coats were further developed with the brand’s signature military influence, replete with major patch pockets. Let’s not forget the passementerie jackets, which stole the show, invading Instagram feeds and garnering thousands of likes (can you hear the cash registers ringing?).
There you go, the key factors of Burberry’s September Collection. If I can find a common thread running between the theme and delivery, it’s that Bailey flipped fantasy with reality. He toyed with human emotion; desire, passion, and everything in between—I, for one, was moved by what I saw. The result? A collection that hit the mark both editorially and commercially.
But the success also got me wondering: What’s next? What happens when September ends, when the press clippings meet the quota and when customers buy up all the pieces? Are they supposed to sit idle until they see the next collection come February? Should then there be an October collection or December one? How will this change impact customers’ spending patterns in the long run?
There are still so many questions that need to be answered and, just like the novel Orlando, only time can tell. In the meantime, let’s enjoy this new chapter of Burberry. Bravo!
By Windy Aulia