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With a Little Help From Ye and the London Contemporary Orchestra, Burberry Delivered Joy (and Sparkly Flip Flops)

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After delaying his show to accommodate the Queen’s funeral, Burberry designer Riccardo Tisci brought the energy to London.

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The Burberry Spring/Summer 2023 collection was originally supposed to be shown last Monday. But in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death—and her state funeral falling at the exact time of its planned show—Burberry respectfully made the decision to postpone it. (The brand is a royal warrant holder, meaning it’s officially known as a supplier to the royal family). Set to be one of the buzziest shows on the London Fashion Week calendar (rumours swirled that it was being staged in Trafalgar Square), the British brand swiftly sought an alternative date and location.

Logistical changes aside, Burberry still promised one hell of a show—and delivered. British musicians like Stormzy and Labrinth, as well as actors Lena Waithe, Gillian Anderson, and Daniel Kaluuya, flocked to a hangar-like depot in deepest Bermondsey, South London. Another celeb guest: Ye, wearing a pair of dazzling, crystal-embellished thong sandals and a leather jacket-hoodie combo. Ahead of the show, Nigerian musician Fireboy DML told GQ, “I wore Burberry on the red carpet at the 2022 BET Awards so it feels great to be a part of this, feels like I’m part of a family.” British rapper Headie One was equally buzzed to see designer Riccardo Tisci’s newest collection: “The last show was so lit, and I’m excited to see more of that creativity.”

While this wasn’t Trafalgar Square, the capital’s beating heart, it was still an awe-inducing location. Camel-hued stalls snaked their way round the gigantic warehouse, which was outfitted with Burberry-beige drapes and curtains. At the center sat The London Contemporary Orchestra, every member decked out in black Burberry suits and matching “TB” branded caps.

Daniel Kaluuya outside the venue.

While Tisci’s predecessor Christopher Bailey mixed military trench coats and tailoring with his own cashmere knits and wool jackets cut short at the waist, Tisci has brought his hard-edged gothic and street-friendly vibe—honed over years at Givenchy—to the brand. Notable looks during his years have included pleated ankle-grazing skirts, sleeveless leather gabardine waistcoats-cum-trench coats, and boxy quilted jackets with matching skirts. “We are a country that had the skinheads and the punks: we have a history of breaking down barriers, but at the same time there is the reality of English elegance,” Tisci told GQ last year.

For SS23, Tisci brought more of his glamour-heavy, perpendicular style. As the orchestra buzzed to life, the first womenswear looks  stomped down the catwalk: lace bodices worn with crunchy, thick-cut skirts, in the classic beige, brown, and black Burberry has become synonymous with. A strikingly composed Naomi Campbell was the second model to walk, sporting a safari-like short coach jacket (in beige, of course), paired with an Anne Boleyn-style, floor-skimming skirt and goth-y lace gloves. Male models wore leather jackets that were wrapped cleverly around the waist with what appeared to be additional attached jackets (Ye was in one, too). Sunburnt, rust-hued denim bomber jackets were emblazoned with Burberry branding, while the Burberry check was presented in birch brown and juxtaposed against the Equestrian Knight design, which was embroidered into lace and used on the gloves, dresses and skirts, worn over floaty checked trousers by both male models, and the likes of models Irina Shayk and Bella Hadid.

The collection was punctuated with moments of pure joy, in high demand of late here in the UK. This season, Tisci wanted to keep things lighter. “We explored a new sensuality,” his show notes detailed. “I was inspired by the liberation and openness of youth, of people embracing their bodies and revealing them. This feels right and this feels Burberry.” Tisci looked to the great British seaside to inject personality and color into a collection that in previous seasons might have been dominated by black. Models in turn were beach-going cosplayers. “This collection is inspired by the beach as a place where humanity meets, a point where different worlds collide,” Tisci wrote. “In summer, in Britain, the beach is a place of democracy, of community. It is where people from all cultures can join together in simple pleasures.”

Luka Sabbat with extra sleeves.

Three bleached-blonde models walked out in silver-buttoned double-breasted suits cut from punchy teal, sunflower yellow, and cobalt-blue fabrics, corresponding flip-flops on their feet. These shoes, rather surprisingly, appeared across the entire Burberry collection. Like Ye’s own, some were drenched in crystals and worn with structured double-breasted suits, while others were inspired by poolside inflatables, blow-up holes included. In keeping with Tisci’s personal vision of the British seaside, there were sun visors and caps, while the valves of inflatable life vests were recast in metal as rings, as were shark’s teeth, which gave the collection some bite. Similarly, Tisci recast goggles as jewelry, set with crystal embellishments and strung necklace-like on models.

Some of the most interesting pieces in the collection played with the brand’s iconic trench. One moss brown trench coat was emblazoned with a grey and charcoal Burberry check and belted ultra-tight at the waist, while a leather iteration was decorated with the features of a traditional biker jacket (sleeve cuffs, heavy-duty belts and buckles). A third was presented in the classic Burbs beige, cinched and pulled in at the hip to give a floaty sundress-like appeal.

As the final models show snaked off, the designer made his first appearance and the rows of guests erupted into applause. Tisci’s friends—a smiling Ye, Erykah Badu, Stormzy and Naomi among them—rushed backstage to congratulate the designer on another excellent collection. This might not have been Trafalgar Square, but Tisci pulled it out of the Burberry bag. 

Stormzy in British beach blue.

Lena Waithe.

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