By Mia Zarrella
England’s most iconic brand is provoking Brits to take a deeper look at their capital’s culture. Inside the Old Sessions House at 7 p.m. on September 16, Burberry’s Autumn/Winter ‘17 collection was a far cry from the billowing Victorian ruffled blouses and tassled blazers from last year’s A/W show. Instead, Burberry’s collection borrows fashion queues from the working class and the posh, creating a gritty representation of what it means to be a Brit.
A spectrum of Britishness, which Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey and collaborator Gosha Rubchinskiy strived for in their designs, was demonstrated outside of the runway show, as well.
Swarms of people gathered outside of the building’s entrance covered in fake blood holding stuffed animals covered in red dye to show their distaste for Burberry’s use of animal fur. Protesters held signs that read “Compassion before Fashion” as they chanted “Shame on London Fashion Week,” all while blaring an audio recording of animals squealing while being slaughtered for their fur.
Because of the demonstration’s aggressive nature, attendees like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and other industry professionals, were escorted into the show by policemen in neon green reflecting jackets. Some guests were spat on, others were shamed for their outfits through a megaphone. The protest stripped the high-profile event of its glamour and instead depicted the dissonance between the fashion world and everybody else.
Inside, attendees couldn’t escape the grit of the streets. Instead, taking influences from the upper class, the working class, and “chav” fashion, Bailey’s female models wore Burberry-tartan caps, colorful transparent trench coats, and argyle socks with bold heels. One model wore a pink, drawstring jersey skirt with gold heels, pink argyle socks, and a tartan hat, while on multiple occasions female and male models displayed their bare chests underneath their trenchcoats.
The collection represents a combination of past and present Britain, posh and chav, and so did the set design. Photographs of 20th century Britain by photographers like Brian Griffin and Roger Mayne hung on the walls in the bare rooms of the Old Sessions House. These images, which inspired Bailey’s collection, were selected with the help of photographers and curators Alasdair McLellan and Lucy Kumara. The exhibit, which is still available for viewing, depicts documentary photographs of cultural events and various social classes in England.
In an on-camera interview last week, Bailey told UK Vogue Editor in Chief Edward Enninful that this A/W collection was exploring “the difference facets of what Britishness means.”
Bailey said, “The new collection is a little bit of an eclectic mix of everything that I love about Britishness: the highs, the lows, opulence, the working class, the difference sides of ceremonies, of pomp, and traditions, and fashion and clothes through the ages.”
As the show commenced on Friday evening, inside the top level window of the Old Sessions House, in the glowing yellow light, a man in a tailored suit looked down upon the swarms of protesters outside raging against the fashion industry. Meanwhile, inside at the catwalk, the most glamorous in the industry snapped photos of styles evoking Britain’s distinct cultural and social influences.
The most blatant distinction that night, however, was between those inside the runway show and those on the outside.