Bruce Chatwin, writer and adventurer, was an incessant traveler. "He was completely British, but he struggled to stay in one place," said Christopher Bailey after Burberry Prorsum's show this afternoon. "I used to be nomadic like that." You had to wonder if there was a hint of rue in the designer's words. It makes sense that every CEO's fantasy would be to recapture the freedom to wander wherever and whenever he pleases, just like Chatwin, especially if he headed up a company as all-consuming as Burberry. When Bailey took the author as the inspiration for his latest men's collection, was he also imagining him as some kind of wish-fulfilling alter ego? "No, not at all," Bailey answered, after a pause that was just this side of pregnant. "He was not serene, and I am."
Still, serenity be damned, Chatwin made a fine muse. A denim jacket featured bellows pockets sized just right for a traveler's notebooks. A satchel could carry everything that wouldn't fit in those pockets. Chatwin's bookishness was reflected in tees printed with the covers of vintage volumes Bailey picked up in flea markets (The History of English Tailoring sounds like dreamy nighttime reading). The weathered colors and graphics of old book covers were a perfect complement to Chatwin-as-inspiration. So were the words printed on a leather jacket, a trench, and a weekend bag: "Adventure!" "Exploration!" It was the purest expression of the Burberry ethos that we've seen for some time. "The world is changing so quickly that it's even more important to reflect on history and heritage," said Bailey.
At the end of the show, every model carried a Burberry-bound artist's sketchbook. And they all wore floppy hats. That was Chatwin. So was the color palette—dark, rich, with a hint of decadence in the deep-purple and bottle-green velvets and suedes offered as staples of a summer wardrobe. Bailey paired those materials with light linens in matching tones. It shouldn't have worked, but there was a careless insouciance about the end result that tied in with what Bailey has been doing at Burberry of late. Same with a double-breasted suit sported shirtless. Poet, dreamer, heedless of rules Bruce Chatwin, in other words. Bailey is steering his analysis of the contemporary British male into heady waters.