In what is widely believed to have been his swan song for the brand, Riccardo Tisci did what he does best: Riccardo Tisci.
Spring 2023 looked like the sort of slinky collection that Tisci had always wanted to do, but couldn’t, because of the constraints of working with a heritage brand — and one with royal warrants, no less.
Burberry is an official supplier to members of Britain’s royal family, and those links come with responsibility. It also meant the brand had to postpone its London Fashion Week show due to the timing of Queen Elizabeth II’s mourning period, and funeral, earlier this month.
The original show was set to be a big bang event in Trafalgar Square, although Monday’s replacement venue wasn’t so shabby.
The show unfurled in a vast, former police storage depot south of the Thames, with members of the London Contemporary Orchestra assembled in the middle of the space, performing alongside soprano opera singer Nadine Sierra.
There was a lot of sizzle in this collection that Tisci said was inspired by British beach life. There were skinny, snake-hipped silhouettes; fishnet dresses; sheer stocking fabrics; silky, lace-edged lingerie dresses, and even a few diamante bikinis.
While the phrase “British beach life” may sound odd — any holidaymaker knows it can be windy and rainy by the seaside all year round — Tisci said he was looking more at the beach as a “crux of society” and a “crucible of humanity.” He also layered up his looks in homage to Britain’s temperamental weather.
It wasn’t all flesh and lace-edged baby doll dresses, either. Some of those models wore dramatic floor-length denim skirts and matching jackets with flounces at the back. The black velvet gowns, adorned with chunky bows as thick and fat as sausages, made his ladies resemble John Singer Sargent’s “Portrait of Madame X.”
Menswear, meanwhile, was the usual blend of street and tailoring with oversize football jerseys rubbing shoulders with rugged check jackets, and tailored suits with snaps in place of buttons.
“We explored a new sensuality — a consciousness of the body. I was inspired by the liberation and openness of youth, of people embracing their bodies and revealing them,” the designer said in the liner notes.
Given his expected departure from the brand, which could come as soon as this week, Tisci didn’t speak to the press before or after the show.
Burberry has repeatedly declined to comment on Tisci’s future, or his replacement. According to industry sources, Daniel Lee, who was most recently at Bottega Veneta, is expected to sign imminently with Burberry.
His job description is expected to be more limited than Tisci’s, however, and it’s unlikely he’ll be named chief creative officer, a title created originally for Christopher Bailey that later passed to Tisci.
On Monday, Tisci’s model pals came to walk the show and, presumably, to say goodbye. It was a catwalk Who’s Who that included Naomi Campbell, Bella Hadid, Irina Shayk, Karen Elson, Erin O’Connor and Maria Carla Boscono. His front-row friends were out in force, too, including a smiling, slimmer Kanye West.
If this was goodbye, perhaps this show was also a clue about Tisci’s future, one where he’s free to unleash all that heat and passion that’s been building while he’s been toiling on these gray and drizzly shores.