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Milan Fashion Week: Burberry Prorsum's soft parade

January 17, 2010 |  9:00 am

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Reporting from Milan -- Having just very publicly wished good riddance to the bandleader jacket at the end of 2009, my heart sank when I read the show notes for the about-to-unspool Burberry Prorsum Fall/Winter 2010 men's runway show, which made reference to "The Burberry parade coats."

Turns out, Bailey was playing it a bit tongue in cheek. Though there were a couple of pieces that riffed on the bandleader or "parade" silhouette (nipped in at the waist and festooned with a large number of tightly spaced brass buttons running down the placket), the run of the show was mercifully 98% "Sgt. Pepper"-free.

Backstage after the show, Bailey explained he had envisioned a "parade of coats" -- that is, a parade of his take on the the outerwear pieces that had been part of Burberry's archival history over the years. Yes, that means the iconic trench coat, but other military pieces as well, including the aviator jacket, the pea coat and cropped military jacket.

"Over the years, the brand has meant so much to so many people, I wanted to find a way to reference that," Bailey said. "For example, a fellow by the name of Sir John Alcock, who was one of the two men to make the first transatlantic flight, did it wearing a Burberry jacket."

Bailey's updated versions of the familiar military themes meant trench coats with double-layered shearling collars, double-breasted navy pea coats with brass buttons and a three-quarter-length coat with a horizontal zipper at about belt level that allowed it to do double duty as a cropped military jacket. Leather straps doubled up at the wrists and neck.

Bailey went deeper into the military wardrobe with riffs on the ribbed-knit military sweater, officer's shirt, webbed canvas belt and shearling-lined military boots. The color palette was on the subdued side, dominated by military-issue greens, grays, khakis and blues.

It was in the fabrications that Bailey did an about face -- many of the traditional jacket and sweater silhouettes were either rendered entirely in or accented generously with shaggy wool, military wool felt or blanket wool to the point that some of them called to mind the voluminous raccoon coats of a certain generation's college years.

Like the warm cardigans at Missoni the day before, they seemed to create a cozy cocoon effect, and afterward I wondered aloud to Bailey if there was a sheep in all of England that still had its wool. "We've shorn a few for this, haven't we?" he said with a grin.

One of the best wink-and-a-nod references to the military references in the contemporary male luxury wardrobe were the pieces that repurposed clusters of traditional brass blazer buttons at the shoulder of sweaters or the cuffs of double-breasted topcoats.

It wasn't until long after the show, when I saw the street vendors hawking (presumably) knockoff Burberry scarves at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in the shadow of the Duomo, that I realized the only iteration of the classic Burberry check I'd seen at the whole show was a version made of snowflakes that was projected on the walls of the venue -- and that seemed to blow away in a squall at the beginning of the show.

-- Adam Tschorn

Photos: Burberry's chief creative officer Christopher Bailey created a "parade of coats" that referenced the label's roots in military and aviation history for his Fall/Winter 2010 menswear runway collection. Credit: Peter Stigter / For the Los Angeles Times

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