Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Future is in the Dressing Up Box: at the Burberry Maker's House

London Fashion Week has been and gone, and fashion labels are once again trying to cheat the apparent death of the industry by doing something different. Burberry did something quite radical which was stage a pop-up showroom that was open to the public. No press passes, no booking: you could just walk in off the street. Which is what I did on Sunday.

Tucked away in a side street off Charing Cross Road, pedestrians were beckoned through a courtyard dressed as a Victorian greenhouse, and into a vast building. It was intriguing and inviting - way more so than actual Burberry boutiques. Through a cafe serving delectable treats amongst a swarm of selfie-snapping visitors, a dark hall downstairs featured many different craftspeople from the organisation The New Craftsmen carrying out demonstrations of their practice. Life sculpture, calligraphy, ceramics and printmaking all featured, and live readings of passages from Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando took place - an inspiration for the Burberry collection. Up the grand central staircase, a video of the catwalk show was projected, and a double-loop of mannequins lined the room. The collection was rather androgynous - appropriatel for the Orlando theme - and it was unclear whether the looks were intended as menswear or womenswear. But then, the whole feeling of the collection was a grand dressing up box filled with muted garments from an antiques dealer, where the evocative nature of a garment, rather than a gendered purpose, is key.

The designers clearly tucked into their fashion history tomes when brainstorming this collection - and it's all the better for it. Sometimes unexpected, occasionally humorous, it was above all imminently wearable. But then again, appearing as an elegant but eccentric mash-up of garments, one could just as easily re-create looks from this collection by going through Granny and Grandpa's wardrobe.

I've written about the knitwear on my craft blog, which was my favourite aspect of the collection. But my second favourite part was all the pyjamas. There was pretty much every single type of pyjama you could think of in this show (minus the slobby boyfriend's T-shirt kind). Silky dressing gowns, boxy two-pieces, lacey negligees and babydolls, and cropped boxer shorts - all layered up on top of each other in a cacophony of textures and cuts. It's the homeworker's collection, giving fashion to freelancer-lifestyle. It's a very inspiring suggestion of how to dress when you finally drag yourself out of your bedroom-office at 2.30pm with your Macbook to work at the local coffee shop/British Library till it closes. In fact, I may well bring my dressing gown with me to the BL tomorrow.

Burberry are clearly doing some clever marketing and branding with this event. Although the premise is that one can order looks from the collection directly, the majority of the general public who wandered into this show are going to be unable, or unlikely, to do so. Additionally, as long as you have access to hoarders or enjoy raiding thrift shops, it's very easy to replicate these looks yourself. So aside from generating huge amounts of press and enforcing Burberry's brand attributes (heritage, craftsmanship, tradition, fashion), I am not entirely sure how such an exhibition will lead to increased revenue.

But it was certainly full of pretty things, and the Internet loves pretty things. Perhaps that's all that matters.

Disclaimer: this blog post was written whilst fully dressed, and not in pyjamas.

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