During lockdown, concern was expressed for young boys who were spending hours glued to their screens gaming. At least they’ll be conversant with the platform which Burberry chose to broadcast its digital-only spring/ summer 2021 show which kicked off London Fashion Week today.
Twitch.com, which has around 15 million daily active users, is the favoured destination of video fanatics who log on to watch one another playing the likes of Fortnite, League of Legends and Call of Duty. On Thursday, those were swapped for a conceptual art performance meets fashion show staged from a mystery forest.
In fact, it felt like Riccardo Tisci, Burberry’s creative director, and his collaborator, the artist Anne Imhof, had taken many of the country’s lockdown trends and turned them into an abstract ‘experience’ to replace the house’s usual megawatt London show.
For starters, Burberry had fled to the country, though it would not reveal the exact location, in lieu of its usual stark London warehouse vibe. The dancers who performed the choreography (described as an ‘ebb and flow of bodies’) were dressed in the kinds of t-shirts and tracksuits many of us lived in for months on end and a swooshing blue print (which it turns out was inspired by the UK’s dramatic coastline) could easily have been an elegant attempt at tie-dye, the nation’s new favourite hobby. All that was missing was the sourdough starter.
‘It began with a thought of British summertime; embracing the elements with a trench coat on the beach mixing with the sand and the water. I envisioned the people of this space, like the lighthouse keeper,’ said Tisci, echoing the new appreciation for the simple things which many of us have felt of late. ‘And a love affair between a mermaid and a shark, set against the ocean, then brought to land,’ he continued, which is where the weird came in.
I assume the aforementioned dancers were in a Covid-secure bubble as they spent much of the show at one metre minus, waving and writhing to a soundtrack performed by Eliza Douglas. They were encircled by models wearing Tisci’s designs, a now familiar contrast of sporty streetwear and sleeker, sophisticated pieces.
It’s a strategy which has been criticised in the past for seeming scattergun, now you might re-frame that as an attempt to appeal to the broadest possible spectrum of customers, more urgent than ever given the Covid-induced 48 per cent drop in sales in the three months to the end of June, a slump which has prompted the company to announce that it will cut 500 jobs.
In the former category, there were slouchy fisherman dungarees, giant hi-vis jackets (‘Is this a tribute to key workers?’ asked one viewer) and pieces printed with mythical creatures. In the latter, shimmering cocktail dresses were an optimistic party possibility though there was t-shirt option which would certainly be a dazzling video conference option while trench coats, Burberry bread and butter, came in the classic beige gabardine fabric spliced with indigo denim or glossy North Sea blue.
‘It’s like the Hunger Games,’ one Twitch.com user commented while watching models walk through the forest, accompanied by men in black suits, into a giant circle where the performance unfolded. Incidentally, that’s a clever analogy for this season’s shows - with the stakes higher than ever but the possibilities so limited. Burberry’s spectacle - part sinister, part trippy, part ode to British nature - tapped into the zeitgeist quite nicely.