Prior to Riccardo Tisci, Burberry was Britain in garments (both the bad and the good). There was a time when the only thing girls wanted was a London boy in a Burberry trench coat – looking at you, Douglas Booth. But after five years of drought at Burberry, Daniel Lee is making it rain again at his most anticipated debut. In Lee’s case, he doesn’t have a specific style but a distinctive approach to his discipline.

While defying the conventions of a brand, the English designer maintains an overall structure that carries across garments and the broad collection. Taking heritage fashion houses and transforming them into modern clothing that rejects hype fashion, Lee’s talent is a sight to behold.

The Soundtrack

Source: Pitchfork

The fashion show played four tracks by a British electronic musician from South London that goes by the name Burial – Truant, Young Death, Shell of Light, and Homeless. The opening track, Truant, repeats the phrase “I fell in love with you”, but the funny thing is, a truant is a pupil who leaves school without explanation, so was Lee making his own inside joke regarding his Bottega Veneta departure?

Burial, whose music is often described as gloomy and dystopian with lots of rainfall, became a meme of London’s gritty melancholy in 2019. With his tracks as the playlist for the show, Burberry set the tone for a changing atmosphere that at times felt like a dark comedy script in Hyde Park. What can we say? Exceptionally on brand.

The Face

Courtesy of Burberry

Daniel Lee might not have gotten back Emma Watson, Cara Delevingne, and Suki Waterhouse (that was an era for the books), but he presented one of the internet’s favourite nepo-baby models, Iris Law. Who, by the way, was also the former face of Burberry Beauty at 16.

The Palette

While the browns and beiges adjacent to Burberry were ubiquitous, the bright yellow, dark red, blue, and deep purple stole the show. The collection was colourful and murky, just the right amount of joy and grim for a Londonder during Fall.

Finally, Burberry trenches brought the brand to national attention after Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded it the Royal Warrant in 1995 – could the purple be an ode to the royal colour?

Enter Burberry Blue

Twitter didn’t take long to coin “Burberry Blue” as the most eye-catching feature of the collection, wondering if this is Lee’s equivalent of Bottega Green. But Burberry blue isn’t new to the British fashion house. As Burberry had a significant following in Japan, the company created an exclusive sub-company named Burberry Blue Label in 1996. It was so exclusive only seven stores in Japan carried it, and you couldn’t even get a waft of these items online.

The blanket-turned-into-shawl though? Very Hermès.

Over time, the Burberry blue became an emblem of authenticity. Could it become the emblem of Lee’s tenure?

Tailoring & Details

As a brand initially known for making soldier wear and aviation garments in the early 1900s, it was pleasant to see Lee translate Burberry’s utilitarian style into his designs. The classic beige trench coat garment was turned into a boilersuit, while coats took a fur-adorned colourful turn. Most designs were also fairly breezy, as evident in gowns paired with puddle boots. Every now and then, the collection included feathers that gave it that luxurious feel. The duck theme was also a big part of the show, but the most fun was Look 13 and 14 because how and why would you punk-ify ducks?

The overall fur inclusion, especially in the tailed bags, seemed like a peculiar reference to the foxes you find around London (and your backyard if you live in a county like Surrey), as seen in the Burberry campaign.

And if you’ll ever have a hard time deciphering Lee’s Burberry from the rest, the designer made sure to plaster a tag on the outside of most of his design with the vintage Burberry logo in Burberry blue.

Detours

The check was too pungent in certain colourways; however, I’m curious how it will translate beyond the runway. Tassels throughout the show looked great, but shoulder tassels on some sweaters seemed misplaced; perhaps if the sweater had a more elongated look, then the tassels would have added a sense of “regalness” while still appearing casual. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the ruched dresses and tops – they didn’t flatter the models’ figures, and although intended to appear relaxed, it was too relaxed, and the off-shoulder tailoring didn’t enhance the concept. However, it may look appropriate in specific settings since Lee is not one to design “lazy” tailoring.

Notes on Codes

Reintroducing the check pattern, the timeless trench coat, and the duck motif.

Ducks, as new as they seem, aren’t new at all. During the early and mid-2000s, Burberry sold the amusing motif as brooches and bag charms, and in 2012, Burberry had umbrellas with duck handles (and a few other animals).

As for the trench coat, despite our desire to see it, the change was refreshing. But the saturation of the check was quite intriguing. After the Burberry check became a staple in the “chav-y” style, it became plastered over the counterfeit market alongside the Guccis and the LVs. It wouldn’t be a shock if Lee brought it back without the beige to further distance the Burberry check from the chav-y style. Similarly, the Burberry Blue Label in the 90s was created to distinguish it from counterfeit as well.

As far as Burberry goes, apart from the trench and check, the brand’s code is Britain, which gives Daniel Lee a lot to play with. As far as we can tell, he’s a kid at a candy store.

KHAMSA’s Top Four Looks

Final Note

Lee’s collection hinted at all things British, including Vivienne Westwood’s colour palette and punk-driven mood. Whether intentional or not, it illustrates how a heritage house can evolve and incorporate various British designs that transcend the beige plaids and their neighbouring aesthetics. As a designer known to pace his vision, Lee presented a solid foundation of a debut for what lies ahead with the upcoming collections.

Daniel Lee’s Burberry in one sentence? Something borrowed, something new, all that, and a whole lot of blue!

Rand Al-Hadethi is an art, culture, and fashion writer who approaches all her creative endeavours with a penchant for storytelling. She explores the intersection of fashion, culture, and society and sheds light on talent and cultural movements across the Middle East and the world. Rand also publishes a bi-monthly themed substack newsletter called WebWeaver™. To reach Rand, email her at rand@khamsa5.com or follow her on social media @rundoozz.
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