Daniel Lee heard the call of the wild for his Burberry debut, which was bristling with faux fur, more trapper hats than Davy Crockett could have dreamed of, and a garden of rose prints and embellishments.
Lee, who joined Burberry last October, had recently begun dropping hints about the direction he planned to take, although there were still a few surprises in store at Monday night’s show.
The trench campaign he released two weeks ago was an ode to London, British creatives and the protective powers of the Burberry trench. Last week he sent show guests the lyrics to a song called “I’ll Keep You Warm,” by the London rapper John Glacier.
At Monday night’s show, there were trays of hot toddies and hot chocolate, while seats were covered in thick blankets and the front row gift was a hot water bottle wrapped in Burberry check fabric.
Yards and yards more checks then exploded onto the catwalk in wild color combinations and covered blanket coats, kilts, tights, stretchy shirts and bombers.
In its nearly 170 years in business Burberry has never seen so much vibrant color. Gone are the Riccardo Tisci days of beige, and in their place are pairings of purple and green; orange and pink; burgundy and white in the shape of checks, diamonds and roses.
Lee, no stranger to luxury brand revival, said he lifted ideas from Burberry’s “old fabric books that have been around for 100 years from the old English mills.”
He added a bright yellow duck print to the mix, just because “I find it very British. It makes me think of the park and Burberry is an outdoors brand associated with the rain and protection. And the brand is about functionality,” he said.
All of that buzzy color — including Donald Duck yellow — spilled onto new bag and shoe styles, faux fur scarves and trapper hats, categories that Burberry is hoping to pump up in the next years.
The company’s chief executive officer Jonathan Akeroyd, who hired Lee and called him a rare talent with a knack for dreaming up bestsellers, wants to double the overall leather goods business, including footwear, as he nudges Burberry toward 5 billion pounds in sales in the long term.
Lee said he “loves making bags” and has been spending a lot of time at Burberry’s prototype factory outside Florence. He said he’s excited to develop a “narrative” for the bags in particular because Burberry doesn’t have a big history in the category.
His designs were miles from the prim leather classics that Burberry has been selling so far and ranged from a deep purple hobo style to boxy leather ones edged in fur, or with raccoon-style tails dangling from the straps. One looked like an upside-down bearskin swiped from the British Foot Guards who protect the monarch.
On the footwear front there were outdoorsy boots with rugged soles, and more delicate styles sprouting fur from all angles.
It’s a whole new frontier for Burberry and while Lee’s vision still has to come into focus, he’s made a gutsy move taking the brand into uncharted territory.