For true fashion fans – which includes the best (but not all) of the fashion press – the international collections are an arena into which new ideas are born. It’s about change, renewal and growth. That makes it sound a little like Carrousel in Logan’s Run.
And with a relentless, even daunting focus on youth behind the scenes and inside the clothes on the catwalk, fashion feels more than vaguely akin to a society where all over 30 are vaporized in the name of “renewal”.
For big fashion brands, however, most of that is null and void. It’s still about growth: fiscal growth. More shops. More clothes – many, many more clothes.
But for them, fashion isn’t about new ideas, and it certainly isn’t about youth. The older the brand the better – that spells heritage, a hook to reel in more consumers.
This week, Burberry Prorsum is one of the oldest, 157 years and counting. But spring/summer 2014 marked its great British menswear debut after over a decade showing in Milan.
Not everyone grows old gracefully. There’s a desperate pitch to the clamour Burberry seem intent on making around their clothing. Not content with simply letting the garments speak for themselves, the brand instead feels compelled to create as much brouhaha around the event as humanly possible.
Prior to their show, Burberry pumped out video and images on to various online outlets. Most of it, frankly, was pointless: glancing through blurry snapshots you learnt there would be polka dots and faux-naif daisy prints in primary brights, showcased alongside endless vistas of London streets with attractively diffused lighting.
The actual show played out in much the same fashion, in an impressive tent in Kensington Gardens, foggy sunlight through polythene the backdrop to a simple, even simplistic show of nondescript colour-blocked separates.
There was the air of David Hockney’s Seventies set, Burberry’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey utilising plenty of the artist’s California poolside blue. “Air” is perhaps generous. If you squint your eyes, the colours of the shirts, sweaters and sou’westers seemed the same.
Bailey called them “easy”. They were, both to wear and to design. You just expected this collection to make a bigger splash. As with previous seasons, the Burberry Prorsum collection was available to order online immediately after the show.
This time, something new: adding your name to a metal plate inside. They call it “personalisation”. But it doesn’t feel especially personal.
There’s something about the cold calculation of merchandise so readily available that rings hollow, a vending machine approach that’s turning fashion into pure product. One couldn’t help but think of some of the week’s younger talents, the mechanics of their shows clunky but the blood, sweat and tears palpable.
Look at the show by Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff, an exceptional experience dedicated to delicate boys much like the designers themselves. It throbbed with heart, and it was precisely that emotional connection made their presentation such a high point. Burberry, by contrast, has no problem going through the motions. It’s the feeling that’s got it stumped.