Over the weekend I stumbled upon the Burberry Markers House, a pop-up showroom just off Charing Cross Road that was open for the public to peruse. Burberry tapped into the company's heritage and expanded upon its current associations as a luxury brand in order to explore what is at the core of couture: exquisite craftsmanship. Downstairs were various craft demonstrations, including life sculpture, ceramic glazing, calligraphy and even Tom of Holland's Visible Mending project. It was dark inside, using chiaroscuro-like spotlighting to highlight the diligent, repetitive activities of the craft demonstrators, who patiently answered all questions. Upstairs was Burberry's latest collection. They took the increasingly common step of presenting looks that are for this season, not next, and which were available to order immediately.
The collection, apparently inspired by Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando, reminded me of a dressing up box in a grand English country mansion. Muted woodland colours were very 1860s-meets-1970s, and so were the silhouettes. What stood out the most was the knitwear. It was full of gorgeous textures in restricted colour palettes, and very bold silhouettes. The deep V-necks, dropped shoulders, nipped waists and droopy full sleeves were a knitted copy of mid-19th century Victorian bodices. But combined with ribs, cables, and split and spliced hems, it was as futuristic and progressive as it was historically reminiscent.
Fashion plate from the The English Woman's Domestic Magazine, July 1860 (source- V&A)
This is bold, inspiring knitting that is a wearable form of textile art, or fashion design - whatever you'd prefer to call it. These kinds of shapes and textures challenge knitwear design, but importantly, do so in a wearable manner, bringing it into the public eye. The next step for Burberry would be to embrace craftsmanship not as a commodity but as a practice, and collaborate with yarn houses to produce and sell knitting patterns and kits - as was far more common in the past. Meanwhile, we can all look. And looking is free.