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‘Outdoorsy elegance’: Burberry offers a collection fit for the British weather

<span>Models present creations for Burberry's autumn/winter 2024 collection at London fashion week on 19 February.</span><span>Photograph: Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Models present creations for Burberry's autumn/winter 2024 collection at London fashion week on 19 February.Photograph: Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images

As the UK’s only substantial luxury player, Burberry is the undisputed headline act of London fashion week. The football pitch-sized eight-mast tent that the brand spent two weeks erecting in east London’s Victoria Park is to London fashion week what the Pyramid stage is to Glastonbury.

The pressure on 38-year-old Bradford-born designer Daniel Lee is intense. Burberry recently issued a second profit warning in three months, and after three seasons Lee’s tenure has reached the point where nothing less than a hit handbag will do. But despite a starry front row – Joanna Lumley radiant in ivory silk evening pyjamas, Barry Keoghan dapper in a polo neck sweater under a suit – and an all-star cast of British models including Naomi Campbell and Karen Elson, this collection felt a little lacklustre.

Inside, the tent was dimly lit, laid with soft grass matting, and scented for the occasion with the fragrance Ivy by Perfumer H. “I wanted it to feel like a forest at night,” Lee said after the autumn/winter 2024 show. “A feeling of outdoorsy elegance, of comfort and warmth.”

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Lee’s big idea for Burberry is to be an outdoorsy, all-weather brand. (He has swapped the white Porsche he drove when he was designing in Milan for Bottega Veneta for a Land Rover.)

Hence the tent. A Burberry show is all about the coats, and here they were rugged, with more parkas, duffels and field jackets. Trench coats were deliberately crumpled, collars were hoisted high against the rain. Models wore scarves wrapped around their hair, carried umbrellas and stomped the catwalk in toothy lug-soled boots. Soft earth browns blended into mud-sodden greens. Even the crochet evening gown worn by Campbell was inspired, Lee said, by moss.

Lee faces a tough job. Burberry is synonymous with Britishness all over the world, and success depends on Lee defining a visual language for Burberry that represents Britishness in a way that is modern and authentic, while newsworthy and interesting, yet still glamorous and aspirational.

“The curse and the beauty of this brand is that it appeals to a broad spectrum of people, from football fans to the royal family,” he said. “But if you try and please everyone, you end up pleasing no one, and as a designer I have to have a point of view. You can’t just make a simple trench coat forever.”

No topic of conversation is more British than the weather and the great outdoors has the benefit of being neutral territory in the British class system. Burberry has suffered in the past from being seen either as too elitist or as downmarket, and Lee is canny enough not to pick a side.

“I’ve been thinking about all the people who wear Burberry, and I mean from the explorers in the early days to my own experience, which was much more urban, of people in football grounds and in the pub wearing Burberry,” he said backstage.