Among many others, Thomas Burberry dressed both military generals and the extreme-sports aficionados of his day. Those were the two client groups Christopher Bailey took as starting points for his spring collection. Bailey has always been fiercely loyal to the Burberry archives, but this season, his loyalty took a turn for the fantastic. There was a certain pure logic in at least part of his rationale: watching surfers in Whitby on the North Sea, their fuchsia and turquoise wet suits clashing appealingly with the gray of the English coastline. This translated into a slew of intense colors and high-tech fabrics (a jacket in mustard neoprene, for instance, or a zippered top in a flaring acid green) played off against more sober tailoring. Bailey claimed the dropped crotch that featured in many of the trousers on display was derived from the silhouette created when surfers eased themselves out of their wetsuits. It wasn't his only play on proportion. Coats were cut fuller in the sleeve ("like the last King Henry," he said).
But if the extreme-sports half of his inspiration yielded intriguing dividends, the military end wasn't quite as successful. A gold metallic sweater came loaded with enough dangling braid and fringed epaulets to make one wonder if it had fallen out of a Ruritanian fantasy. As peculiar, though more seductive, were items like a gold-foil snakeskin coat, and a twenty-second-century flasher's mac in something called "smoked plastic." They suggested that Bailey is formulating his own idiosyncratic take on what might constitute glamour for the Burberry label. Weird, but possibly wonderful.