Burberry returns with a bang to London catwalk

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British designer pulls big names for first home showing in a decade

Crash barriers were erected outside the Chelsea College of Art in London's Westminster last night to contain the crowds at the Burberry show that closed the women's wear collections in the British capital. US Vogue's Anna Wintour, French Vogue's Carine Roitfeld, Glenda Bailey of American Harper's Bazaar and Victoria Beckham had all flown in for the occasion. They and Emma Watson, the beautiful young face of Burberry, all took pride of place in the front row.

Returning to the London catwalk after an absence of more than a decade and to celebrate London Fashion Week's 25th anniversary, the company's decision to show here was the icing on the cake as far as ensuring international attendance levels and celebrity appearances were more high profile than ever. After all, Burberry, which entered the FTSE 100 for the first time earlier this month, is the envy of many luxury goods brands that are struggling to weather the economic downturn while it continues to prosper by comparison.

It was Burberry's former CEO Rose Marie Bravo – now Angela Ahrendts is chief executive – who introduced the concept of a named designer and an upscale runway collection to the brand's repertoire safe in the knowledge that to compete with the likes of Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton fashion credibility as well as heritage was needed to revive the Burberry name.

Bravo employed both creative director Christopher Bailey and Mario Testino, also in attendance, to photograph and promote any bright new image at the turn of the new millennium. A vast image from Testino's current campaign for Burberry was projected on to the side of the show space meeting guests as they filed in.

Formerly unveiled at the twice-yearly women's wear collections in Milan Burberry, Prorsum [Latin for forward] has since become one of the most well-liked labels on the international circuit. At the heart of the collection is always the famous Burberry trench coat, worn in the past by Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and the Queen, and reinvented every six months by the designer with great sensitivity to fashion's prevailing mood.

This time reef knots, Bailey said, were key to the story, perhaps at least partly as a result of the Yorkshire-born designer's memories of British seaside holidays. It is safe to say, however, that his offering was rather more glamorous than anything readily associated with these.



Opening and closing the show, the Burberry trench came in signature gabardine, of course, but also in duchess silk satin, butter leather, glove suede and parachute silk and in the most subtle and lovely colours – frosted pink, lavender blue, crocus and muted silver and gold. It was, in all its incarnations, just as short and narrow as designer fashion currently decrees. Should the Burberry customer wish to wear it alone next spring then she will be more than able to do so. Otherwise she might like to pair it with a short sweet, bubble-hemmed chiffon skirt, ruched, pleated and, yes, knotted around the hips and a fine-gauge cashmere knit buttoned up the back.

The fisherman theme extended to the accessories. Knotted leather platform-soled ankle boots and sandals were worn with ribbed silk socks the colour of Cornish sand, and models carried twisted leather clutches or oversized shoulder bags: the new Burberry "it" bag is called the Sling and is printed with vintage Burberry check.



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