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Christopher Bailey turns to lace for a fine and dandy Burberry show

Dec 18, 2016 @ 3:04 pm
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Of 44 outfits paraded along catwalk for LCM SS16, 33 sported lace, referencing traditions of British dandyism and contemporary fashion cult of androgyny.

Will real men wear lace shirts? Christopher Bailey thinks so. The very first model in his Burberry catwalk show was wearing a trenchcoat – a particularly elegant number in lightweight navy gabardine – but barely anyone noticed, because he was also wearing an ivory lace shirt and a lace tie the colour of English mustard.

Of the 44 outfits on the catwalk, 33 sported lace. (The name of the collection: Strait-Laced. Ha ha.) A teal green double-breasted suit was worn with a mint lace shirt underneath; a casual cotton lace shirt, worn with slim-fit trousers and tasselled loafers, sported a white ruffle along the placket, and scallop-edged short sleeves.

The Macaronis, London’s original dandies, were wearing lace blouses back in the mid-18th century. And the phenomenon that is the Burberry catwalk show is living proof that British men, given the opportunity, are still game for getting dressed up. Bailey stages these shows with red-carpet swagger, this time in an arena-sized clear plastic marquee in Hyde Park, London, with champagne waiters and cashmere picnic blankets dotted around the lawns.

The invitation featured a gold peacock, and attendees dressed accordingly. Film-maker David Furnish and singer Tinie Tempah wore double-breasted suits: Furnish in beige, checked shirt and pocket square, sockless loafers, Tempah in white with matching shorts. The actor Chiwetel Ejiofor kept his Prince-of-Wales-check grey suit buttoned; Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw wore a black giraffe-print shirt with a suit and boxfresh white trainers.

Much of London designer menswear is about amplifying or refining streetstyle, but the Burberry look has its roots in formal, upper-class sartorial traditions. Bailey is smart, therefore, about adding off-beat, soulful elements to keep the look interesting, and lace – which references both the traditions of British dandyism and the contemporary fashion cult for androgyny – was the crucial seasoning of this collection.

With their floppy curls and trailing scarves, the line-up looked a little like an impossibly good-looking Oxford college orchestra. Backstage after the show, Bailey said: “Some men will wear lace, and some men will not. Some pieces in the show are not for everybody. But I like the poetry the lace brings with it – and in the showroom we’ve got beautiful classic poplin shirts with a tiny lace placket, which are very much more wearable.”

Tailoring came in a new slim cut dubbed The Chelsea, but the suiting and trenchcoats were broken up by cashmere joggers, which Bailey said were “intended to make things a little more relaxed, because I don’t like things when things get too uptight”.

He added: “This is a sartorial, formal show with all this classic tailoring, so I wanted to knock off the edges a bit, make it feel a little bit more effortless.” Square tortoiseshell sunglasses and tie pins in the shape of caterpillars and dragonflies – think David Bellamy meets Schiaparelli – were employed to spice up a collection which majored in simple tones, surprisingly wintry for a summer catwalk, of black and charcoal, navy and pale grey.

Eleven female models joined the lineup wearing looks from the womenswear pre-collection, a reflection of the sharply rising profile of the pre-collections in the fashion calendar. For the women, the lace theme was developed into patchwork and macramé lace takes on Burberry’s signature high-waisted, slender day dresses.

“We had been working on that collection at the same time as the menswear, and I’m always reflecting that we don’t have a proper platform for [pre-collections],” said Bailey after the show. “The spirit of the two collections worked well together.”

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