It’s all change at Burberry, and not just from a business and marketing point of view. Christopher Bailey shifted direction for this second see-now-buy-now coed outing, inspired by one of his longtime lodestars, Henry Moore, the Yorkshire artist and sculptor famous for his off-balance proportions and chunky, curving bronzes. The Moore aesthetic doesn’t exactly jibe with the modern beauty ideal — what woman wants a breast at waist level and a foot like a T-bone steak? — which made Bailey’s choice intriguing.
The show was a departure on many levels — Burberry loves color and this collection came mainly in black, white, gray and a faded, workwear blue, the latter drawn from the everyday wardrobe of the artist himself. It was also Bailey’s most conceptual collection for Burberry, a purveyor of classic fare — the trench, the check, the military coat.
Bailey, who plans to return full-time to the design studio in July, when he’ll relinquish his chief executive role to Marco Gobbetti, tore everything up in the name of the artist, and the result was an abstract take on the brand’s staples.
Trenches were roomy and robust, with thick cuffs and chunky half-belts at the back, while asymmetric knits looked as if they were pieced together. Some were slashed to reveal a shoulder, while others were cropped high on the waist. Tweed jackets had curved shoulders and rounded sleeves, creating a whole new form around the body. A sculptural white cape was a mix of luscious shearling on the front and cable-knit on the back, while a quilted, military-inspired jacket had jutting, angular shoulders.
Men got off easier in terms of body alteration: They wore mainly high-waisted pants and novelty shirts.
“Moore’s work is about changing the form, putting it in different directions,” said Bailey, who is also chief creative officer. “His shoulders were suddenly up here, the breasts were suddenly down here, and I liked that idea of putting something on, turning it in a completely different way, deconstructing it, changing the shape of the body by moving the lines and the pieces in a more unconventional way.”
Inspired by Moore’s white plaster maquettes, or sculpture models, Bailey sent out a lot of white-on-white silhouettes — tiered dresses in cotton poplin, lace and broderie anglaise, and wide, doilylike collars on solid blue or striped shirts. The finale was a lineup of statement capes in materials ranging from silver feathers and metallic leather to plastic ruffles, stiff lace and glittering bits of chandelier — the latter an ode to Moore’s love of found objects.
It was a risky move, but there were many commercial pieces here — and appealing ones, too — especially the curving, choppy knits and elaborate capes, which Bailey said would be made to order. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Burberry customer will embrace Moore’s spirit as wholeheartedly as Bailey does.