We waited months for Riccardo Tisci’s debut for Burberry, and for what it’s worth, it’s clear that the audience was left wanting for more and with a dull feeling. The recent collection got reviews labeled as “conservative”, “safe”, “disappointing” and even “boring”. While most of the reactions are evidently right considering Tisci setting the expectation bar for the brand really high ever since he shifted from Givenchy, most creative fashion critics are missing the point that fashion is a business. In other words, and to make it clearer, though this industry requires you to take risks and innovate constantly to stay relevant, one must never forget the identity and the essence of the brand, especially if we’re dealing with a brand that was in business since 1856.
First of all, we could all talk about every single outfit that was sent down the runway, which was already covered by the fashion design professionals. The show opened with the beloved and iconic trenchcoat of the brand and that’s how we all automatically knew we were going to see a lot of Tisci’s work reflecting Burberry’s archives. The key here is that people were expecting a complete 360-degree re-invention of the brand. Nobody knows if it was because Tisci introduced a brand new Burberry logo and monogram in early August or if it was because they were expecting the superstar designer to introduce an eccentric and edgy side into the new collection just because we’ve been following his work at Givenchy for years. Either way, we all witnessed a classic Burberry with a few retouches that clearly showed Tisci’s polished signature way of designing so we knew somebody else was taking over. On the other hand, it was quite surprising not seeing the new monogram portrayed more in both women’s and men’s wear. Talking about the colors of the collection, critics were expecting to see more diversity on the runway. Not only because the current consumer wants classic brands to experiment with their choice of palettes more, but because fashion taste is getting riskier and completely getting influenced by the streetwear boom. You may confirm this just by looking at Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh and other recognized fashion houses setting a luxury tone into streetwear.
Second of all, considering that Burberry is mostly the representation of English fashion, it cannot just dive into the streetwear pool just because the young ugly-sneakers-obsessed audience wants it. We all have to agree that Riccardo Tisci is known to have a very edgy and eclectic taste in his own designs, which fit perfectly like a glove at Givenchy for some time. Now that the designer has shifted into a historical fashion house, it is pointless to expect an eccentric Burberry that forgets about its past and revamps classic pieces abruptly (or have we forgotten how many bad reviews the latest ex-classic Calvin Klein has gotten for its latest collection at NYFW?). Oddly, most of the assumptions made about the brand after the launch of the new monogram were that Burberry was going to take a stand in the streetwear market just like Louis Vuitton or Valentino, but that was abruptly denied publicly by CEO Marco Gobbetti.
Moreover, and the big reason why Tisci went “safe” with his collection, is the fact that a brand has to SELL, no matter the high-fashion connoisseur opinions behind. It is true that a lot from the collection was considered pretty repetitive, too conservative and perhaps the public was not entirely convinced by the few streetwear pieces shown right after the classic Burberry outfits. But let’s be honest, the people that wear streetwear clothes are not going to be the same ones who buy a classic Burberry trenchcoat. When Riccardo Tisci announced that the name of his collection was going to be “Kingdom”, he later got interviewed after the show and stated that he didn’t think that fashion should only have one identity and so he said his collection was a celebration of cultures, as well as the traditions and codes of the historic fashion house. In that sense, it is clear that the new Burberry collection is no longer meant for only one segment of the public. We should probably expect Burberry’s vision statement to change with time which says that they are “positioning themselves in the most rewarding and enduring segment of the market” into something that reads “fashion for all segments of the industry”. In a few words, what Tisci came to do was to not only keep the current Burberry clientele (which of course he’s going to keep because the collection WILL SELL since it has already set the right commercial strategy) but to also start attracting other segments, keeping in mind the brand’s values based on still offering their distinctive, timeless and historical products.
In sum, Riccardo Tisci’s debut for Burberry was not a complete letdown. Nobody can deny that Tisci has positioned himself as one of the most recognized and talented fashion designers of our time and so he will never miss the mark at showing quality in everything that he creates. It is also important to consider that Burberry has been used to Christopher Bailey (former creative director) for a very long time, so it will take some time for Tisci to get used to the Englishness that has historically characterized the brand as well as for the audience to understand Tisci’s brand new creative strategy. We can just hope that Burberry will remain timeless through time, stay true to its identity without forgetting London’s eclectic side and that the creativity was handed to the right person.