If last season was the much-awaited debut, the big bang of color, pattern, and new bag shapes, spring is square one for Daniel Lee: He’s setting out to build hero products into Burberry’s offer — money-spinners meant to get the brand generating 5 billion pounds in revenue in the long term.
The pressure is on. Lee, known for his golden touch with accessories in particular, has spent the past months refining his approach and bringing his vision into focus. On Monday, he paraded a collection brimming with silver and gold accessories, a motorcyclist’s swagger, and touches of medieval heraldry that had a strong commercial bent.
“Ultimately we want to design things that people want to wear,” Lee said during a preview at Burberry’s temporary design studio in Soho. “There can be a few moments of British eccentricity in the collections, but I see Burberry as quite grounded. Classicism has to be the foundation.”
He’s thinking way beyond the runway, and planning how the designs are going to play on the shop floor and e-commerce screen.
“This job is way bigger than just a show, and what we’re doing right now is redefining everything,” Lee explained. “The brand is obviously known for the trenchcoat and I do think we have very beautiful scarves, but aside from those products, there’s not really that ownership. There’s no accessory or standout ready-to-wear outside of the trench. So there’s a lot to build — which is very exciting.”
He wanted to keep his first spring collection fluid and feminine, “and to build a show that felt quite easy to understand, a show with lightness and calm. I think that’s what people want from the brand,” said the designer, who seated guests on green park benches under a vast checkered tent in London’s Highbury Fields.
Lee ramped up the luxury element, too, adding silk and special yarns to Burberry’s signature gabardine trenches.
The collection was tighter than last season and it’s clear Lee is looking to build the brand’s vocabulary.
A chain print, inspired by the hardware on Burberry’s bags, wound its way across silk shirts, trenches, tiered ruffle dresses and scarves. The Equestrian Knight, an archival emblem that Lee dusted off and turned bright blue, inspired the shape of the new Shield bag.
The new knight emblem also appeared as the mega-buckle on the statement belt worn by the topless male model who closed the show.
Lee drew on Burberry’s sporty, performance heritage, too, with a lineup of cool moto-inspired shapes, including a new trench style with a wide, low-slung belt; a leather biker jacket in ice white, and sexy, asymmetric dresses with zigzagging zipper details.
He’s also been plugging the brand’s British heritage. A week before the show, Burberry did a brand takeover in central London, turning the Bond Street tube stop signage into “Burberry Street” and teaming with Norman’s, the north London café known for its British grub.
Lee even worked British fruits and flowers into the spring collection, adding a blue strawberry print to tops and a cherry one to shorts.
As with all of Lee’s collections, it’s important to shift the gaze south to the shoes and there were certainly some bankable styles, including psychedelic sparkly blue or gold mules; tall silvery sandals wrapped in leaves and vines, and, for men, ’70s-style slip-ons with shiny hardware.
Next month the Equestrian Knight is set to gallop into Seoul, Shanghai — and later, New York — as part of an initiative called Burberry Streets, a series of immersive experiences, installations and events.
Lee is spot-on when he says his job is much bigger than a seasonal show and over the next months his ideas will cascade into all sorts of different products and categories as he puts his stamp on the brand.