riccardo tisci dedicated his second burberry collection to london youth
As he explored post-Brexit Britishness, four characters emerged – the girl, the boy, the lady and the gentleman.
Against the backdrop of the sociopolitical nightmare that is Brexit, and coming at a time in which we’re all questioning just what Britishness means in 2019, Riccardo Tisci used his sophomore Burberry collection to refine the nostalgia-infused, youth-focussed, character-filled definition he introduced at his acclaimed debut back in September. For his first act he crafted a carefully-considered collage of Burberry characters -- Sloaney princesses sidled up to rudeboys -- in a vast and expansive 135-looks that brought together tribes of British style under one roof. For his follow-up, he pushed it further.
Taking inspiration from the contrasts in British culture, the collection evolved the cues and codes set out last season and celebrated the contrasting worlds and individuals they represent. Four characters integral to Tisci’s freshly renovated house emerged -- the girl, the boy, the lady and the gentleman. As he explored Burberry’s past and potential future, he reminded us that the heritage luxury house unites everyone from ravers to royals, the upper classes and the working classes, the A-listers to the East Enders, the financial elite and the just about making ends meet. So, Burberry and Tisci are uniquely placed to ponder post-Brexit Britishness.
“I’ve been thinking about England as a country of contrasts, from the structured to the rebellious and free, and I wanted to celebrate how these elements coexist,” Tisci explained in his show notes. He playfully clashed these worlds and challenged perspectives, creating two bespoke contrasting environments within the Tate Modern Tanks to showcase his evolving future for the heritage British luxury house. “My first season was about starting to develop my alphabet for the house, it was about identifying new letters and new codes. And now, I’m starting to put these letters together to begin writing my book here.” In these uncertain times, it’s a must-read.
Now, if you watched the official live stream or have scrolled through catwalk images, you’re seeing the perspective that i-D didn’t experience. Soundtracked by classical music, this “more rebellious, brutalist and real space” encouraged 100 youths to scale the walls to symbolise Tisci’s creative call-to-arms for, and celebration of, freedom and inclusivity. Our space was a more structured, traditional and formal catwalk space with severe, angular and rigid wood seating set above a dimly lit space that was kickstarted into life with an M.I.A.-produced megamix of the defining youth counterculture sounds of the 90s, 00s and now. It opened with a News at 10 report on the early 90s rave scene and the clash between the establishment and the youth, before bursting bangers that covered everything from rave to grime, to jungle and drill. The thumping sounds echoed the sartorial shake-up of the senses that Tisci sent down the catwalk. “M.I.A embodies the raw creativity and individuality at the heart of England -- she is a true punk in every way,” Tisci explained. “We’re both from other parts of the world but are proud to call London our home and have connected over our hunger to express ourselves without boundaries.”
Since his appointment back in May last year, Tisci has immersed himself in not only the 162-year-old archive in order to make his mark on its exciting future but deepened his understanding of British style through the power of collaboration -- enlisting Peter Saville to rework house branding, teaming up with forever-punk Vivienne Westwood on a joint capsule collab and inviting six photographers to shoot his first campaign. So what is Burberry’s proposition of British style now? Well, it’s a faux fur coat, worn over a lace-detail slip dresses styled with Chelsea boots and it’s a deconstructed trench teamed with sharp-shouldered-suiting and kitten heels. It’s a puffer duffle over bold vintage check and leather track pants and quilted gilets over English-fit tailoring and rubber-cap-toe brogues. It’s a tracksuit and Union Jack and trad tailoring. It’s a captivating collage of contrasts, it’s different worlds coexisting.
In an emotion-filled Instagram post shared just after the show, Tisci dedicated “this show to the youth of today, to them having the courage to scream for what they believe in, for them to find the beauty in expressing their voice.” It’s something he himself experienced during his time at CSM in the late 90s. “I will be forever grateful to London for being the city that opened my eyes and mind and gave me the freedom when I was young to discover who I truly am.” From looks that echoed his own coming-of-age clubbing moments in the capital and the couture craft from past houses, this was a collection that reimagined references from Tisci’s own past. This was at its most obvious and powerful in the Guido Palau-sculpted gelled down baby hair that reminded us all of his iconic Givenchy autumn/winter 15 show and FKA TWIGS’ appearance on i-D’s Youthful Issue cover back in 2012. This was both a nostalgia-fuelled love letter to London then, and a celebration of the next generation youths shaping the London of now and tomorrow.
From Brexit to Climate Change, next generation-powered protest has followed this season of London Fashion Week. This show’s title, Tempest, was fitting. The capital of a divided island on a dying planet is unsurprisingly angry, and a storm is rising but Tisci believes in the power of youth to push things forward. The two-show, one-collection experience could be read as a divided show for a divided country but as we all experienced the same collection, I read it as reminder that despite our different perspectives, we’re not that different. It might feel like it right now but we partied together under one roof before and we can do it again.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.