Christopher Bailey has so many people to please in his job at Burberry that the scale of the task would daunt anyone: There are the young girls dipping in for the occasional cute, inexpensive piece; the super-luxury sophisticates (who cleaned the label's stores out of python coats last spring); the legions of customers living in vastly differing climates from Bal Harbour to Boston to Beijing. Backstage before the show, the designer was explaining how he went about squaring that massive circle for Fall: with busbylike wool beanies; plain, girl-friendly overcoats; and "trumpet" flares, on the one hand; and on the other, with extraordinarily worked, couturelike outerwear constructed from tiered feathers, suede "sequins," and fringed leather leaves.
"I've been looking at L.S. Lowry," Bailey explained, citing the Northern English painter of industrial landscapes and "matchstick" people. "He painted all these ladies walking around in funny hats and coats." If that gave him a conveniently British jumping-off point for the collection, it didn't lead anywhere literal. Instead, Bailey put his focus on proportion. He began by balancing a short silhouette (coats came curved into the hem) over long, skinny legs walking on high platforms, then worked in his great-looking bootlegs with boyish jackets in menswear fabrics. As the collection segued to the luxury end, the handcrafted coats became ever more complex and textured: in multi-pleated, knotted strips of organza; pieces of fox fur cut out and re-appliquéd; piled-up shredded leaves of chiffon. Accomplished as these were, though, it was the more pragmatic, younger end of the collection that recaptured some of the freshness the collection has been missing in the past couple of seasons.