The master of high-low, is creating a new Burberry for all
Words by Harriet Quick
“Something for everyone” is how Riccardo Tisci describes the scope of stalwart British brand Burberry. Everyone includes men, women, children, entrepreneurs, executives and even pooches — there’s a line of dog coats. While such an expansive vision can often result in “vanilla” clothes, Tisci is forging an identity that hops between sportswear and bona fide corporate exec wear: between pixelated house check tailored menswearshorts and deconstructed trenches that boast luxurious lambskin collars and smart check liners.
The AW collection is titled Tempest, and in that Shakespearian title, Burberry is tuning in to our highly volatile times — the promise of the no-nonsense aesthetic is that Burberry will ride out any storm (political, economical, and climatic) and deliver us back into the world with self-assured style.
The signature trenches on which Thomas Burberry made his reputation in the late 19th century will always be an attraction. Now the gabardine classic (the original breathable rainproof material) comes in a multitude of guises boasting fluffy shearling trims, ring-pierced seams and cape sleeves, or served “straight-up”, plain in tropical weights. There are puffer coats (goose down-filled) and proportionally perfect suiting that’s made to work hard in diverse environments while fulfilling our personal desires for elegance.
In short, Tisci is creating a new vernacular that jibes with our diverse, unpredictable times. He’s steering a design team that’s criss-crossing the cult and institutional, the past and present with a light touch. The wholesome, bucolic vision that Christopher Bailey imagined for Burberry over his 17-year tenure — and that turned a heritage label into a publicly listed global powerhouse with a reported 3.7 billion US dollar turnover — has been usurped by urban modernity and multifunctional pieces.
The new Burberry iconography (designed by luminary graphic artist Peter Saville, the vision behind Factory Records) combines fluid T and B letterforms as a monogram in place of the knight on a horse that reigned for decades. It’s not that Tisci is averse to a good old cup of tea (it’s just more likely to be matcha latte) or the elegance associated with English country ladies and gentlemen, it’s just that he envisions those codes on global streets.
Tisci is a past master at high-low transplantation. After all, this is the creative who pioneered Nike Air Max 97 Mid, wild animal motif T-shirts and nose jewellery at the bourgeois Parisian house of Givenchy. Raised in a working-class northern Italian family, he’s no snob. Tisci cut his teeth in London working as a sales assistant at New Look in the rough and ready Elephant & Castle area of London while studying fashion at Central Saint Martins. His style education happened in nightclubs, in the studio and on the shop floor. He launched an eponymous haute couture line in 2004 consisting of darkly romantic draped silk jersey dresses and deconstructed tailoring. Consider the reinvention of Burberry as a balancing act and the clothes as welcome equalisers.