By  on March 17, 2005

LONDON — Christopher Bailey is taking the rough with the smooth this season with a Burberry London collection that’s filled with sharply tailored woolens and soft washed silks, structured tweeds and fluttery velvet devoré fabrics.

“I wanted a combination of functional military pieces and soft, feminine ones,” said Bailey during an interview at the Burberry headquarters here. “And, as always, we want the collection to be classic, traditional — and youthful.”

At retail, Burberry London is sold alongside the Burberry Prorsum collection, which is shown in Milan, although it’s slightly more commercial and less expensive. “It’s very important that there’s a link between the two collections. I want the customer who walks into the store to feel one mood, and to see one environment.”

As always, Bailey started with the company’s iconic trenchcoat for Burberry London. There are lightweight tweed coats with no epaulets, tobacco-toned washed leather ones, suede styles and others made from metallic leather that glisten like their wet. “I wanted them to look like they’ve been rained on,” said Bailey with a big smile.

The designer also turned to regimental looks for inspiration, slimming down military coats and taking the bulk out of army jackets. “I wanted them sexy, feminine and romantic,” he said. There are long, olive green overcoats and short jackets with epaulets that follow a woman’s curves.

On a lighter note, there are fluttery washed silk dresses with ruffles spilling down the front, and sexy skirts made from the same lightweight, wrinkly fabric. William Morris-inspired nature prints wind their way across velvet devoré skirts and onto silk jacquard coats, while water flower prints bloom across chiffon dresses.

Colors are rich and not for the faint of heart, including burnt orange, olive, tobacco, deep sapphire, citrine and garnet. The William Morris prints carry over from the main collection, as do fabrics such as Mongolian lamb for shearling coats and gilets; variations on velvet for skirts and dresses, and lightweight tweeds for skirt suits.  

Bailey has been working closely with English and Scottish mills for his woolen and cotton fabrics for both the Prorsum and London lines, encouraging them to make lighter-weight fabrics, and speed up their production cycles. He sees it as a pleasure and a duty.“It’s devastating for me to watch the mills in northern England close down and turn into luxury apartments,” said the Yorkshire native. “If we can’t support our homegrown mills, then who can?”

Burberry London will be on display in the company’s Manhattan showroom on March 23.

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