Designer Christopher Bailey is looking to Burberry's future through the glamour of its past and finding that it is very bright . . . and metallic, too. He ensured that his signature Prorsum collection – the heritage label's upscale line and seasonal piece de resistance of the London Fashion Week schedule – shone very literally for Spring 2013.
Entranced by old school "British glamour" and the excitement of space age materials, Bailey found a way to combine those elements at Kensington Garden's runway show this week. Like Marc Jacobs, he's not really in the mood for pants, it seems, with many of the show's looks focusing on metallic swimsuits or hot pants paired with (equally elemental) capelets – and, of course, Prorsum's signature trenches.
This season, those coats come in unabashedly feminine jewel tones like electric pink, emerald and amethyst, while the gleaming sateen dresses and fantastic plastic handbags continue the retro-gamine-from-the-future vibe. Corsets accented many of the key looks; burleseque darling Dita Von Teese, watching from the front row, was surely riveted.
Music is integral to any Burberry proceeding, and this season's soundtrack of Birdy, Ren Harvieu and Tom Odell – all recent additions to the brand's musical family – provided a meditative, soothing sonic contrast to all the wham-bam flash of the runway show. Burberry is at a pivotal stage in its 156-year history; it's one of Britain's oldest and most fondly observed sartorial institutions, yet under Bailey, it's a symbol of modern musical youth. The English troubadours harkened to a rustic past, while the electric clothes on the runway indicated Bailey's head is lit up with dreams of a tech utopia, the kind 20th century optimists longed for but never actually created. Burberry's pop cultural plight has been a guitar-laden one, leading them through rock, punk, folk, and pop on the runways and at their intimate concerts. They might want to invest in electronica next if they want to stay ahead of the curve.
Tellingly, over on Regent Street, the new Burberry store is an innovative bastion of technophilic cool (with over 100 screens installed, it broadcast the Spring 2013 collection in real time). But Bailey will always have a soft spot, a certain reverence for the beauty and decadence of Britain's cinematic past. Through digital means, he aims to resurrect it. With his new collection, he's given the allure of the Vivien Leigh era a cyber-charged makeover.