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5 Things To Know About Daniel Lee’s AW23 Debut Show For Burberry

Daniel Lee had a tent erected in South London to unveil his debut collection for Burberry, an industrial take on English romanticism that subverted the house’s signature checks (and saw Lennon Gallagher and Iris Law walk the runway). Anders Christian Madsen was there.

The show was Daniel Lee’s first for Burberry

“I think the brand is about functionality,” Daniel Lee reflected after a debut show for Burberry that dialled down the glamour of previous interpretations in favour of a more everyday sensibility. That sounds a lot more normal than it looked. Lee – who worked for Phoebe Philo at Céline and spent 2018 to 2021 transforming Bottega Veneta into one of the coolest brands – exercised his talent for subversion in purple, blue, yellow and red adaptations of the house’s signature checks, clashed and emblazoned head-to-toe in outfits that weren’t for the faint of heart. The colours characterised a highly graphic collection that succeeded in translating the functionality Lee detected in Burberry into workwear, tailoring and day dresses that felt both challenging and desirable – just what people want from him.

Image: Carlo Scarpato/Imaxtree

It took place in a spooky tent south of the river

Lee’s debut for Burberry marked the brand’s return to English hands after five years under Italian Riccardo Tisci, who took over from Christopher Bailey (of Halifax) who sat front row. As a signal, perhaps, of the different understanding of Britishness his background brings to Burberry, Lee chose the unassuming South London location of Kennington Park to present his show. Here, he raised a tent inspired by those the house created in the 1920s and ’30s, and filled it with what looked like mounds of checked blankets (which some guests, tipsy on the hot toddies served pre-show, obviously nicked after) and checked hot water bottles. Add the spooky lights and horror sound effects that played during seating, and you’d understand that the Britishness Lee was bringing to the table was anything but the postcard kind.

Image: Carlo Scarpato/Imaxtree

It was an industrial take on English romanticism

If there was a British romanticism to Lee’s collection the way we’ve often known it from Burberry, it was the industrial kind, if that’s not a total oxymoron. The show opened with two green trench coats that looked as if they’d been soaked in petroleum, trimmed with very faux-looking faux fur collars and big rigid morphs between military riding boots and wellies. Later, various adaptations of the trench coat followed in anoraks and shirt-and-trouser combos. It felt like an expression of a side to England that didn’t just feel real but also relevant in a socio-political and financial climate that’s seen better days. “All the trench coats you saw in the show were made in Castleford. It’s been really nice to engage the team there,” Lee said, echoing the point.

Image: Carlo Scarpato/Imaxtree

Lee wanted positive vibes

For all its industrial undertones, it was by no means a sombre take on Burberry. On the contrary, Lee consistently balanced things with quirky elements: duck prints (“they make me think of the park”), humorous hats and blanket coats. “I want it to be positive and I want to, hopefully, show some positivity about Britain to the world. There are great schools here, there’s great theatre, there’s great music, there’s great art. I want to shine a light on those things,” he reflected. “So much creativity comes out of London. I mean look at Vivienne,” he said, referring to Westwood, whose memorial took place last week. “You walk down the street and you’re surrounded by people from so many walks of life, all living together. That’s something I missed in recent years and that’s what I’m trying to celebrate.”

Image: Carlo Scarpato/Imaxtree

It brought a new dawn of accessories for Burberry

You could attribute much of Lee’s success at Bottega Veneta to the accessories he created there: magnified, with the jump-through-the-screen animation a digital age of dressers go mad for. Yet to be broken, there was no need to fix that approach for Burberry. Lee presented a string of supersized bags and shoes sure to put Burberry on a die-hard accessories map that hasn’t been characteristic of the house in the past. “It’s exciting to try and find what is the narrative for Burberry bags, because it’s not a brand that’s really been known for that before. It’s about functionality. Daytime. They’re not too precious,” he said. They served as the icing on the cake in a collection summed up by the words Lee put on a T-shirt: “Winds of change.” Smiling, he said: “I thought it was funny. Change for me, change for the brand, change for the positive thing.”

Image: Carlo Scarpato/Imaxtree
Image: Carlo Scarpato/Imaxtree

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