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Bleach and Beige at Burberry


Bleach and Beige at Burberry

Riccardo Tisci’s mix of street relevance and hardcore glamor feels just right for now.

Burberry, the British brand that grew like a field of dandelions into a mid-aughts fashion empire, is now completely under the thumb of chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci. After a few seasons of a beige agenda, last year Tisci suddenly went all-in on himself and the clothes began to pop off. On Friday in London, he showed a collection of snappy plaid clothes and potential Oscar gowns. And he released a collaboration with Supreme that sold out almost instantly. And! He convinced Gigi Hadid to bleach her hair. Talk about a vibe shift!

Hadid’s new hair is the sort of small “some of my best friends are celebrities!” gesture that makes Tisci’s world so much fun. (He got MariaCarla Boscono to dye her hair red for his debut in 2018.) When he packs his shows with celebrities–as he did here, with Adam Driver, artist Anne Imhof, Kate Moss, Jacob Elordi, and several others in attendance, plus models listed in the press release by their first names only–it’s because he considers them family. “All my friends!” he said in an interview shortly after the show. “You know, they are celebrities, but they are my friends.”

His premium on intimacy is a rare act in high fashion now. Increasingly, big fashion brands appear to be giving up the pretense that they’re quirky businesses straddling art and design and acting like real corporations. (See: Prada’s power moves, or Balenciaga’s balance of hit products and imposingly theatrical runway shows.) That approach at a behemoth like Burberry, which is, at the end of the day, best known for plaid rain coats rather than the ballgown mystique that most heritage houses have to lean on, could swallow even a designer as grandiloquent as Tisci. He seems to have figured out how to do things that feel major without feeling merely big.

“It’s our first show live after two years,” Tisci said in an interview shortly after the event. “It’s very interesting not working through a computer, and [to] be live and be real.” Rather than use a big catwalk, Tisci had his attendees stand around a series of round tables; the models walked up a few stairs to pose atop them. “Everybody was very happy that they could really see the clothes and the work that we put in the clothes,” he said, adding, “Basically it’s a punk girl walking on a dinner table.”

“You know, they are celebrities, but they are my friends.”

Now about that Supreme collaboration. Tisci was one of the original fashion collaboration pioneers, working with Nike on a sneaker in 2014, but he said he stepped away from it “because I really needed to build a wardrobe for Burberry by Riccardo Tisci, which really, now you start to recognize,” he said. Now it felt like he could “open the door and welcome somebody else to celebrate fashion and streetwear.” Several other luxury brands have collaborated with Supreme over the past two years, from Yohji Yamamoto to Tiffany & Co. to Jean-Paul Gaultier, but Burberry’s felt particularly on target, with plaid camp shirts and pants. Maybe because he is a deeply Italian outsider, Tisci gets to see England with wide eyes, so he can see how the country’s old-school wealth is as rich for mining as its “underground, very rebellious society,” and can do either without feeling like he’s pandering.

But it’s the balance that creates the Tisci magic, remember? His tartan skirts and country coats were highly wearable–with his usual motor of feminine aggression harnessed into a sense of precision–but the eveningwear, like a trench coat gown, a field jacket ball skirt, a futurist sequin tuxedo shirt and column skirt, were showstoppers. They were excessive and baroque, which is what Tisci stans love, and any of them (even the crazy trench gowns, which less bold designers have tried and failed to do) would make a great Oscar look. Now that Glenn Martens is making gowns out of jeans at Y-Project, high-concept evening dresses look perhaps a little less divisive. Probably the upper crust of England will appreciate them as patriotic ball gear.

What made Tisci such a star at Givenchy was that he was as good at the street stuff–graphic T-shirts, big-time sneakers, and macho silhouettes–as he was at putting celebrities in glinty gowns, helping to mint Rooney Mara and Beyonce into red carpet icons. Awards show style could use some real shaking up, and Tisci’s hardcore glamor could be just the thing to do it.