FASHION-BRITAIN-BURBERRY

Inside Riccardo Tisci's First Burberry Show at London Fashion Week, a Bold Statement Was Made

The road to Riccardo Tisci’s debut collection at Burberry was a winding one. And not metaphorically, as far as we know (Tisci has flown relatively under the radar since being named chief creative officer at the British house in March). No, the literal road leading to Monday’s big debut at the South London Mail Centre was winding, complete with highly choreographed traffic patterns and plenty of security. It sounds like a logistical nightmare in theory, but the slowdown at the finish line only helped build anticipation for what was to come.

To say that Tisci’s Monday night show was the most buzzed about and anticipated moment during London Fashion Week would be an understatement. Yes, there was a certain Spice Girl celebrating her 10-year anniversary, but the real talking point from squished front row seats to the week's various cocktail parties was Tisci. What would one of fashion’s biggest wild cards with a punk tendency bring to a classic British heritage brand best known for trench coats and classic tartan. And, for the Internet’s sake, who would he bring?

Upon walking into the venue, there was no apparent front row, usually identifiable by a shroud of camera flashes around it. Not unlike the road outside, the setup was quite maze-like in its configuration: A raised catwalk snaked around the center of an open room, with rows of plush white chairs and benches set out around it. Of course, Tisci’s celebrity Rolodex knows no bounds; this is, after all, the man who dressed Kim Kardashian for her first Met Gala when she was seven months pregnant. Dozens of A-listers would be there at the snap of his fingers. Surely, no?

The nearly pitch-black lighting situation certainly did not help. Was that woman sitting next to Anna Wintour Margot Robbie? Carey Mulligan? Any other Academy Award–nominated woman with a blonde bob? Nope, just a non–Academy Award nominated woman with a blonde bob. Was that rambunctious child bouncing in a seat North West? Was the man hovering near her Kanye West? Nope, just a child and a man wearing sunglasses indoors. Whispers began to fly—were there any celebrities here? “I heard Justin Bieber was here,” a seatmate offered. I double checked on the blonde bob next to Wintour. Nope, not him.

A tweet from New York Times critic Vanessa Friedman seemed to seal the deal—no celebrities to see here. A power move, for sure, and one that certainly drove home a point: This moment was about the clothes, and the clothes alone. And in the end, it worked. For perhaps the first time in the spring 2019 season, now officially at its halfway point, not a single editor spent the show tweeting, ‘gramming, texting, checking Google Maps, or anything else involving a cellular device. (Except, of course, for taking some videos of the collection. This isn’t 1999.) Instead, everyone was completely enraptured by the fashion show at hand—and isn’t that the actual reason we’re all supposed to be here?

To this end, Tisci certainly kept everyone on their toes. According to the show notes, emailed immediately after the last look had hit the runway, the collection was broken into three parts: refined, relaxed, and evening. The collection, as a whole, was called Kingdom.

“I was thinking a lot about journeys as I started putting together my first Burberry collection,” Tisci said in a statement in the show notes. “From my personal journey back to London 20 years after I showed my graduate collection here, to how far I have come. I was also inspired by how much London—the city that made me dream to become a designer—has evolved. This show is a celebration of the cultures, the traditions and the codes of this historic fashion house and of the eclecticism that makes up the beautifully diverse United Kingdom.”

The show began with a true nod to the brand’s heritage, with a great showing of very wearable modern pieces done in shades of beige that incorporated both the classic Burberry tartan and Tisci’s newly redesigned logo. Then came a large showing of men's wear, followed by more classically Tisci pieces—lacy slip dresses, graphic T-shirts, fringe, etc.—as well as some classic finale gowns. All in all, there were 133 looks, something for literally everyone.

And in the end, there was even something for someone just wanting to see a celebrity. Taking to the catwalk were supermodels past and present, including Irina Shayk, Natalia Vodianova, Lily Donaldson, Mariacarla Boscono, Jourdan Dunn, Stella Tennant, Freja Beha Erichsen, and, yes, Kendall Jenner. It may be a new era for Tisci, but some things will never change.