Cool Britannia

By Johnny Davis
Burberry SS24

The new Burberry spring/summer 2024 collection is making its debut in the label’s flagship store on Bond Street. To fully appreciate it, though, we have to cast our minds back to last September, when the designs were first aired in public at a fashion show in London’s Highbury Fields. Here there was tea, Eccles cakes and most British of all, perhaps, a polite queue of people waiting to be served them.

The significance of the venue was in what it signalled. Whereas Burberry has previously hosted its presentations in Kensington Gardens, among the pomp and circumstance of Chelsea and Westminster, Highbury Fields is most readily associated with Arsenal Football Club. The front row felt different, too – a bunch of characters who were quintessentially British but each one a maverick in a field of their own, with not much in common at all. Action hero Jason Statham. Choreographer Wayne McGregor. Footballer Bukayo Saka. Musician Damon Albarn, fresh from a celebratory reunion world tour with Blur, accompanied by his daughter Missy, wearing some fetching furry earmuffs. Actor Jodie Comer. Oh, and Sir Mo Farah. Look, Burberry seemed to be saying, these are our people. Only we can do this. Welcome to today’s eclectic, characterful, multicultural Britain.

To accompany the spectacle, you may also remember that Burberry staged a series of “takeovers” across the capital – known as Burberry Streets – activations that celebrated ‘the art of discovery and exploration’ by bringing ‘modern British luxury to life in new and innovative ways’. A north London caff, Norman’s, known for its youthful, stylish clientele and trendy Instagram account became one of these “takeovers”, while another was Bond Street tube station, rebranded with blue signs – Burberry blue – and reading “Burberry Street”. The aftershow party in the evening following the tented Highbury event was also held in Bond Street, at the Burberry store. The message: the spring/summer 2024 Burberry collection had arrived in town.

And now, half a year on, as is the way with the fashion calendar, the clothes are actually arriving for the rest of us. As Daniel Lee’s first summer collection as chief creative officer for the brand it marks a new take on British style that feels fresh and refreshingly non-elitist.

‘Burberry flies the flag for Britishness and for the UK and for culture,’ Lee said last year, and the collection really does present a very contemporary kind of Britishness. But one that also feels reassuringly familiar. The 38-year-old grew up in Yorkshire, not far from the Burberry coat factory. He knows that a beautifully cut trench coat, along with killer scarves and accessories, are what people come to Burberry for.

Indeed, the first model down the catwalk at Highbury wore a trench. But it was in black, not the more familiar beige, and cut to showcase a slimmer, more youthful silhouette. It set the tone for the entire offer – clean and simple, a theme that was echoed in the double-breasted men’s suits.

That’s not to say there aren’t decorative elements here. Fruit-centric motifs, including blue strawberry-print trousers and matching tops, and abstracted cherries embroidered onto shorts and sweaters bring some seasonal fun, and florals suggest summer in England. Burberry hardware – chains, locks and carabiners – hang from shoes and bags.

The freshness at Burberry is beautifully presented at its flagship store at 21-23 New Bond Street. The lavish space covers 22,000sqft split over three levels and features womenswear, menswear, eyewear and shoes, with a focus on leather goods and accessories. It also houses VIP departments, areas designated for select shoppers that promise an ‘immersive and personalised shopping experience’.

The open layout, broken up by a mix of bold abstract furniture, including low-slung velvet sofas and overhead lighting designed to replicate Burberry’s famous check, creates a visit that feels both relaxing and luxurious.

This premier retail destination features Daniel Lee’s minimalistic Burberry logo positioned on the exterior façade. While the bright white interior has illuminated shelves, check carpeting and mirrored accents. Pillars, staircases, wall displays and mirrors bring a rigid geometry to a space. Like the collection itself, the physical environment here suggests a pleasing combination of aesthetic rigour and precision, combined with decorative character. And all is wrapped in an ineffable spirit of a modern Britishness that respects heritage but understands that you need to evolve to stay relevant.

Burberry, 21-23 New Bond Street, London W1S 2RE

Johnny Davis is the deputy editor of Esquire

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