Christopher Bailey’s final collection for Burberry is a remix of his greatest hits and the eras that have defined the brand, writes Natascha Hawke
After 17 years at the helm of Britain’s most successful luxury brand, how do you say goodbye? If you’re Christopher Bailey you celebrate with 1,300 of your closest friends by putting on a show to end all shows. As a metaphor for new beginnings, the Time collection, as it is sentimentally called, was auspiciously unveiled on February 17 during London Fashion Week in a new show space. The listed Dimco Buildings in West London provided the cavernous, disused warehouse backdrop to Christopher’s finale, with the light installation Our Time by London-based United Visual Artists, providing the mood.
As the pendulum lights melodically swayed to the music in the otherwise pitch-black space, the show poignantly opened with model-activist Adwoa Aboah in an oversized fleece hoodie worn over a floor-length gown with sneakers, perfectly setting the tone for a collection that had a lot to say. The clothes, the music and the models came together in a megamix of Christopher’s greatest hits, referencing collections of old and bringing them into the new, often with a loud, proud flash of rainbow symbolising hope, freedom and a bright future. Capes were worn over hooded sweaters, the trench was worn over tracksuits, and in an ironic nod to the current ’80s and ’90s revival, Christopher paid a particular homage to Burberry’s chav days — an association that the brand has tried hard to bury — by bringing back archive pieces from caps to shell suits, covered in check from the ’80s and ’90s, a selection of which was made available immediately, delivered to the first fast few via the new ‘Show to Door’ service launched with Farfetch for 24 hours after the show.
As ever, the music played an integral part, setting the tone for Christopher’s nostalgic, autobiographical journey through fashion by opening with the haunting vocals of Bronski Beat’s Jimmy Somerville whispering “memories, sweet memories.” As Burberry campaign faces Jean and Edie Campbell navigated the runway in rainbow puffa jackets. The beat gained tempo with ‘I Feel Love’ featuring Marc Almond, fading out to reveal a rainbow-drenched Cara Delevingne, who closed the show in a floor-length shearling cloak. To mark the finale, rainbow lasers burst out from the floor to form the perfect prism over the runway, flashing to the sound of The Communards ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ as Christopher took his final bow to a standing ovation as the lyrics “set me free” echoed through the air. A triumphant finish that marked a moment in fashion history, and judging by the smile on Christopher’s face, an exciting time ahead for one of the industry’s most respected talents.
The Burberry February 2018 Capsule collection is now available globally at Burberry stores and Burberry.com