Burberry's September Show Transcended Time and Gender

Burberry's September Show Transcended Time and Gender

Deconstructing the Woolfian pangender references of Burberry's London Fashion Week show.

Deconstructing the Woolfian pangender references of Burberry's London Fashion Week show.

Text: Mariana Fernandez

The penultimate day of London Fashion Week ended with one of the most anticipated shows of the season: Burberry. Once again, Christopher Bailey managed to make the 160-year-old brand as relevant as ever with a show that challenged the very core foundations of the fashion industry.

Evoking Burberry’s heritage of “innovation, craftsmanship, and design,” the designated venue was Makers House, which for this week will host an exhibition open to the public in celebration of the inspiration and craft behind the collection. Complete with a romantic sculpture garden, the British townhouse had benches at which craftswomen demonstrated their arts. Open to visitors as of the 21st, the space will feature a daily changing program of Britain’s finest arts and crafts makers curated by The New Craftsmen.

Christopher Bailey’s inspiration behind the iconoclastic show was Virginia Woolf’s 1928 classic novel, Orlando, which narrates the story of an immortal English lord who changes his gender to that of a woman. There was a Vintage Classics reprint of the novel on every seat. “What I love about Orlando is that nothing is specific to one time or one gender,” Bailey said after the show. “It is a book about emotion and beauty, which is what I feel fashion is about.”

In accordance with the pangender theme of the book, this season saw Burberry’s first-ever co-ed catwalk. The makeup artist, Wendy Rowe, described the models as a group of “handsome girls and beautiful boys.” The fashion house coupled androgynous beauty with genderless pieces. The trench coat, Burberry’s signature, is, after all, genderless. Both male and female models walked the runway clad in military braids, tailored jackets, wide trousers, velvet blazers, ruffles, sheer lace, and silk pajama shirts.

Bailey’s decision to deliberately have every male model wear trousers—or a variation of them—rather than an overtly gender transgressive skirt or dress makes the statement that perhaps gender fluidity in fashion is something that doesn’t need to be obvious.

Burberry was also another fashion house to close the gap between runway and retail through “see-now, buy-now.” As a collection marked by decadence and luxury, it juxtaposed directly with the immediacy of the “see-now, buy-now” model now becoming almost standard in the fashion industry.

Bailey’s show was a manifestation against not only the strict gender binary imposed on fashion, but also its timetable. In addition to combining womenswear and menswear, Burberry replaced its four-show calendar with only two shows. This “seasonless” collection resists the very definition of fashion as constantly changing, evolving, perishing, and having to be renewed.

You can watch the full show below, and click through the slideshow for the collection, available to shop here.

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