The relocation of the Burberry Prorsum men's show from Milan to London this season has been hailed as one of the biggest vindications to date of the city's soaring fashion status. After the show, staged in typically grand Burberry style in a massive tent in one of the boskiest corners of Hyde Park, Christopher Bailey wasn't sure whether the switch would become a permanent thing, but on the evidence of today's presentation, the decision to stay ought to be a no-brainer. So much about Burberry and Bailey's menswear homecoming whispered, "He's back." In every way.
Fact is, Burberry's increasing internationalism has at times diverted Bailey's collections away from the wayward kindred spirits and fellow countrymen in the arts who used to guarantee a little quirk, a little strangeness, a little charm in a Prorsum collection. Burberry's relentless march to global domination inevitably chipped off the character. Today, however, the audience reached the venue through a track canopied in trees—"Farm Lane," the Burberries were calling it internally—and after the show, drinks were served on what was dressed for the occasion as a village green. With Kensington Palace looming over the trees, this most heritage-conscious of companies was clearly ramping up the Britishness. And that made Bailey feel right at home.
"Writers and Painters" was the theme. The writer was Alan Bennett; the painter was David Hockney. Like Bailey, they are both from Yorkshire. His friend Alex Jennings happens to be playing Bennett in the West End at the moment. Bailey was impressed by the ties he wears in the role. They made their way into the collection. So did Hockney's sartorial singularities: primary colors, kooky glasses frames, vivid footwear, the slouch of his clothes. The muted presence of Yorkshire itself could be felt in shades of nature, like the blue of sky or the new greenery of spring. A handful of brightly colored waterproofs co-opted the role of the classic trench.
Maybe it was just the reflected glow of the postshow village-green drinks business, but in hindsight the catwalk also felt a little like a village in motion: Spot the shopkeeper or the butcher, the local schoolmaster or his best student. It felt like it meant something real to Bailey. He mentioned the time he saw Hockney on Jermyn Street, wearing a white suit with a smear of green paint at the waist. "Did he even know?" the designer wondered. All to the good, that casualness infected this collection.