Riccardo’s Reboot: What did our two fashion critics think of the new Burberry?

Riccardo Tisci showed his hotly anticipated first collection for Burberry this evening at London Fashion Week. Our two fashion experts, Sandra Halliday and Marcus Jaye, were poised to love it or hate it. In the event, neither of them were blown away but this was nonetheless an interesting start. (Could have done with fewer looks, more bags, logos and that much hyped monogram though). Read their full verdicts below.

Sandra Halliday

First the disclosure. I was a big fan of Christopher Bailey’s Burberry. No, make that I was a big fan until a few years ago when see-now-buy-now and the streetwear influence began to reign supreme. Call me old-fashioned but those shearling aviator jackets (thankfully revived for Bailey’s curtain call show), painted trench coats, tiered dresses, shot-silk puffer coats, studded leathers and more had me written all over them.

The Burberry of recent years has been less me – not that Burberry has suffered as sales have continued to build. But a change of creative chief is always a heart-stopping moment for a brand so Riccardo Tisci’s debut for the label Monday must be  the joint most talked-about one of the season (along with Hedi Slimane’s debut at Celine).

Burberry SS19
Ultra commercial pencil skirts

The big question is, did Tisci deliver? Once again, let me qualify that – did he deliver for me? We know these pieces will sell to affluent Millennials, after all, Tisci is cool and Burberry is having a moment so that’s a given.

But what about the woman who just wants something nice to wear that doesn’t feel like a panto costume but still stands out?

Well it’s interesting that there a plenty of that in the Burberry show. In fact, if anyone was expecting challenging silhouettes, the ‘ugly fashion’ trend or more streetwear they’d have been disappointed.

Was it just Tisci taking the fairly conservative approach that many designers take for their first outing at a new label? We don’t know that yet, but for now it had lots for me to sink my teeth into. Maybe too much though? Maybe not enough of the calf hair minis or quirkily printed jeans for the Gucci/Balenciaga-loving Millennial. Perhaps…

Sunray pleats

There’s no denying that the pencil skirts and the sunray pleated skirts were ultra-commercial; the peg-top pants (in the collection’s dominant neutral tones) were faux commercial but actually quite challenging for anyone who’s got used to skinnies, joggers or wider cuts; the soft puffball hems are likely to filter through to the mainstream at some point; the leather apron skirt over a silk and lace slip dress looked covetable; the beaded fringe trim was an instant commercial win (and a very Tisci look); the frilled pieces worked well; and the use of the Burberry signature check for blouses underlined the importance of monogram prints.

There were unexpected touches in the print story that were the kind of slightly dark statement we’ve come to expect from Tisci and there were also some surprises in the cuts – you might not have noticed them from a distance but up close, skirt and pant waistbands looked like they’d not been fastened properly, tailored jackets came with puffed sleeves and scarves with threaded through jackets or attached to coat hems.

Leather apron over silk slip

And talking of coats, the biggest statement of all was that Burberry is a company that’s mainly about coats. The trench was everywhere and looked fabulous whether in silk, giraffe print, as a mini cape or worked in mock croc leather. And the belt bags with the B monogram underlined the firm’s recent success in the accessories sphere too.

Did I like it? The simple answer is yes, a lot. Did I love it? Hmmm, not so sure. It didn’t grab me in the way some older Bailey collections did but didn’t leave me shrugging my shoulders as with some more recent ones. It was, I think, an interesting start. Just like many other before him (think Tom Ford’s first collection for YSL, Clare Waight Keller’s first for Givenchy and several more), it stuck close to the Burberry rulebook so it will be interesting to see whether that gets torn up (or at least referred to less often) in the future.

Sandra Halliday is a contributing editor to The Industry and a former editor in chief of WGSN and Stylus.

Marcus Jaye

Burberry has opted to put all its checked eggs into Riccardo Tisci’s basket. Before a single collection, except for a couple of teaser T-shirts, they’ve changed the logo – 2018 is the year of the bland, officially – found an old monogram in the archive – plastered London (& the world) with it – and really committed to this creative director before a single industry or customer reaction.

Unlike Gucci, who rushed out a quick collection with Michele, and tested the water, this has had a six-month build up. Need I remind you what happened at Roberto Cavalli or Brioni when they changed everything for a new creative director?

Ctrl, alt, trenchcoat?!

Following the departure of Christopher Bailey whose rainbow swan song ended an era when Burberry was a fashion leader. The winds of fashion changed, Burberry was no longer as relevant and it’s been playing catch up recently.

Control, alt, trenchcoat?! The new Chief Executive, Marco Gobbetti, previously at an accented Céline, inserted Tisci, whom he worked with at Givenchy. And proclaims to want to ‘elevate’ the brand and take it away from ‘accessible’ luxury. I’m not sure how accessible the current £1,500 trench coats are, btw?

The stock market likes the idea – the share price is up 20% so far this year – and is salivating at the higher prices and bigger profits these more expensive items should generate. If only fashion was that simple.

Cut to Vauxhall, and the first show from Tisci’s new ‘B Series’ Burberry. You can shop his first pieces now – available for 24 hours, only on Instagram.

Where were the logos and monograms?

First impressions is, it’s big – 133 looks – but doesn’t have a clear viewpoint. I would have done a smaller collection – say 40 looks – and kept its message very focussed, strong and styled.

It looked like a Parisian’s take on Burberry, and maybe something Phoebe Philo would have done, if she’d got/wanted the job. It’s probably too tasteful for the current Burberry customer; they want more check and logos.

People go to Zara for these types of clothes, these days. When people buy ‘designer’ they want a statement, they want a recognisable piece and there didn’t seem to be much of that here.

If Burberry wants to do clothes like this, at these prices, then the quality and cut needs to be flawless. There were a couple of nice takes on the trench. I liked the silk scarf details on one.

Nice silk scarf details on a trench

Brands need to highlight something they’re getting behind for that season, be it a bag or a type of coat, and really ram it home. I couldn’t see any key bag styles, and, if they’re going to elevate the brand, like they hope, then it will all be from accessories to drive the revenue growth.

The male models, with their 80s gelled back hair, had touches of Tisci’s Givenchy in the baggy sweat shorts and luxury sportswear, but there was nothing here you couldn’t get at Boss or Louis Vuitton.

I was expecting the new monogram to be on everything, it wasn’t. I feel like that’s a mistake, no matter how tacky it could be. It would be a major sales driver in the all important Asian market and I’m sure we’ll see more from these ‘drops’ of collections we keep hearing about. There could have easily have been a logo segment.

It was chic, at the beginning, with some nice detailing, then the men’s section arrived, and then it got all confused towards the end. Sadly, these aren’t the type of clothes you’ll be thinking about until they come out, there’s just too much good competition.

Marcus Jaye is a contributing editor to The Industry and founder and creative director of TheChicGeek.co.uk