Sienna Miller, Kate Moss and Eddie Redmayne… Now Dame Mary Berry has joined the stellar list of fashion names who over the years have worked with Burberry.
Yesterday, hours before his second show for the British behemoth, Burberry’s creative director Daniel Lee posted a picture of the dame taken in Norman’s Cafe, an old-school style (non) greasy spoon in north London.
Both Norman’s and Dame Mary are decked out in Burberry’s check, in a sock-it-to-them cobalt colour that Lee has been making a distinctive part of Burberry’s comeback.
Bradford-born Lee’s last job required him to inject several thousand volts of excitement and must-have-ry into the luxury Italian fashion brand Bottega Veneta. Now he’s on a mission to bring some of that magic to Burberry.
While the brand recently posted global revenues of over £3 billion - up 10 per cent on the previous year - its post-pandemic bounce back lags behind European brands such as Dior and Louis Vuitton. Crucially, its accessories are still trying to shake off the dreaded Duty Free fodder reputation.
That first show in February was a promising start, with a slew of slouchy bags, eye-catching shoes and loud prints which, while they split the jury at the time, provided much for him to build on.
This collection seems even more confident. Unlike last time, Lee chose not to shroud his collection in darkness. Light flooded in through Burberry’s checked marquee, pitched in Highbury Fields, a leafy enclave in north London more used to well-heeled dog walkers than high-heeled influencers and celebrities.
The arrival of Rachel Weisz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Kylie Minogue, Mo Farah, the prima ballerina Francesca Hayward and the Nigerian singer Burna Boy suggested, if nothing else, that the Burberry show buzz is back.
The degree of detail on some of the clothes is a new feature at Burberry. Naturally the trench coat took precedence, reworked for spring and summer in drop-waisted slimline gabardine or a floaty print that had all the qualities necessary to get it onto editorial magazine pages (i.e. it felt new).
That cobalt royal blue - a nod perhaps to the brand’s late patron, Queen Elizabeth II - flashed up on a cropped jacket, the shape of the season, worn with white drawstring trousers. On closer inspection the jacket was ruched with fringed edges. This relaxed approach combined with sophisticated, detailed craftsmanship has become typical of Lee, who previously worked at Celine, Balenciaga and Donna Karan.
A long, asymmetric floral-print T-shirt dress worn by Edie Campbell turned out to be a painstaking blend of chiffon and intarsia knit. Another comprised 3-D blooms embroidered onto mesh. Other prints referenced the hardware Lee and his team have designed for some of the new bags, a chunky metal chess piece that pays homage to the knight in the original Burberry Prorsum logo.
When Lee took the creative helm of Burberry last year, he made it clear he wanted to dig deep into “the functional British qualities that made it the obvious choice for Ernest Shackleton, but also appeal to a really wide audience”.
Wooing different generations with a wide range of prices and different access points - from glittery backless mules to cosy knits - and keeping a coherent thread with so much going on and a rainbow of primary colours is a high-wire act. But this had an energy and optimism that was hard to resist.
It’s too early to say whether Bottega’s lightning will strike at Burberry. You can’t fault Lee’s work ethic and commitment. But as he says, “You never really know when you’ve just come up with a hit.” As he told me recently, “Typically the magic comes with the thing that doesn’t yet exist - and that’s something you can’t brief.”