NANCY BUCKLAND KIRK ON WHY, AS WE LOOK AT THE HIGHLIGHTS OF LFW, IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT BURBERRY

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THIS WEEK, FASHION & BEAUTY COLUMNIST NANCY BUCKLAND KIRK’S BEEN TAKING STOCK OF LONDON FASHION WEEK AND LOOKING AT HOW IT’S NOT JUST WHAT WE SEE ON THE CATWALK THAT’S CHANGED IN RECENT YEARS…

London Fashion Week is in full swing, and more than any other city, London seems to be embracing a new, democratic mood. The days of FROW divas devilling about in Prada are not completely numbered, but labels know the power of the social media influencer. You can spy models on catwalks with a few thousand followers, the journalists with a few thousand more, and then beyond the velvet rope up trip the new generation of fashion powerhouses. And by that I do mean Strictly ladies, Love Island girls and the odd Loose Woman. They are so powerful that the velvet rope has been unclipped for them.

Julien Macdonald is the king of glamour, in London at least, and while his show featured VS Angel, Izabel Goulart, who has a decent sized following herself, his Front Row included guests who would have been considered just not ‘fashion’ enough just a few short seasons ago. Macdonald is hugely savvy. Whilst his main line is still very much his creative outlet, it’s his range for Debenhams which really is the backbone of his work. At a time when our High Street needs a real boost as internet sales take over, it’s a bold but brilliant stroke by the King of Sequins. From Laura Anderson to Montana Brown, he knows that any figure with more than a million Insta followers is worth an envelope.

London Fashion Week is not what it once was. Of course, we miss the high drama of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. But the capital still has a brilliantly diverse mix involved in its schedule. Established commercial names such as Amanda Wakeley and Paul Costello sit happily alongside more recent additions such as Erdem and Emilia Wickstead. Victoria Beckham, as a label, has just celebrated ten years by showing in London and, of course, there are always those designers who are ageless, contemporary and directional all at the same time. Zandra Rhodes, we salute you.

It is Burberry, though, that tends to be the biggest draw and with good reason. It is a name and a brand which is instantly recognisable. It often can be a little like style Marmite. If you bring it into conversation you will usually get a viewpoint. It’s check is as iconic as its history. The quiet purveyor of trench macs and umbrellas at some stage started pointing towards where it would be today. It started with Kate Moss and a sundress, and from there the style story really began.

When Burberry really relaunched at the end of the last century, it did so without huge fanfare, but a campaign featuring Miss Moss, and an updated range featuring dresses, bikinis, bandanas and accessories in that signature check, and they really captured the mood of the day. Before Mrs. Beckham was a designer herself and was jostling for solo success, she loved a bit of Burberry. In an era when we really started to become obsessed with what celebrities were wearing, a nod from VB meant a hike in sales.

And then came the man who put the Brit back into Burberry: Christopher Bailey. He arrived at the label in 2001 with an impressive design pedigree and a desire to really upscale the brand. He created waves straight away, and Burberry become even more of a commercial success. A year later his hard work was knocked off its perch, briefly, by that famous image of Danniella Westbrook clad head-to-toe in Burberry check. Bailey steered the label back into safer waters by creating beautiful catwalk pieces whilst increasing the brand’s reach through new perfume and cosmetics launches. Everyone from Stella Tennant to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has been a Brit girl.

When Bailey stepped away from Burberry after nearly two decades, it was a surprise to even seasoned fashion experts when Riccardo Tisci stepped right in. This was the designer who took GIvenchy and gave it a real street edge whilst making it all about high octane glamour. The label once synonymous with Audrey Hepburn became more about angular pieces worn by Kim Kardashian, as well as more accessible sports luxe wear and trainers, which aren’t inexpensive, but sell by the truckload. It seems to be a winning formula. McQueen do it now, Gucci does it now, also: penthouse and pavement, as they say.

This week’s Burberry show, Tisci’s first outing for the brand, was an absolute joy to behold. Of course, it is a wonderful part of this new democracy that we can watch LFW live, in our own homes. Guest-wise, Tisci kept to a more old school approach but then this label is an international bestseller. The nearest you get to a reality star is Kendall Jenner on the catwalk, and as reality stars go, she is in the upper echelons of that particular world. Tisci sent her out in head-to-toe beige, which doesn’t sound too alluring, but the chain detailing on her mac showed a few flashes from his famous Givenchy metal pieces. The macs were leather and silk, the dresses were prim and pleated, and the trousers mannish and tailored. The accessories were luxurious and subdued in terms of patterning, but you can’t disguise their beauty in terms of soft leather and suede. The hair and make-up was simple and pretty and the overall appeal was very commercial, but it is in Tisci’s expert design touches that take a suit away from being Mrs.Thatcher inspired into something more angular and youthful.

Burberry has had quite a controversial time in the press, of late, but Tisci has given a nod to the label’s heritage, Bailey’s workmanship and added a very tongue-in-cheek spin for 2019. Beneath all these crystal pleats, silk shirts and grab bags lies an absolute goddess. She isn’t in over-the-knee boots with a smokey eye. She wafts by bathed in elegance but somewhere around her lurks a tiny hint of danger, Bodyguard-style.

Welcome to Britain, Riccardo. We’ve been expecting you.

About the author: Nancy Buckland Kirk is a writer with a keen interest in fashion and beauty and a career which has spanned modelling, teaching and spreading the word about leading beauty brands.

Related feature: Nancy makes a date with the September issues.

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