"I've been liking things where you can't quite understand what you're looking at," said Christopher Bailey, searching for words to describe the blurry visual effect of a soft, puffy-edged, bark-textured trench over a short gauze draped dress. Elsewhere, what appeared at first glance to be a fluffy pale jacket of tufted tulle turned out to be made of leather, minutely shaved with razors to give an "eyelash"-fine 3-D texture. Bailey was describing these sleights of hand in the showroom of the vast new eight-story Burberry building—slap-bang next to MI5's HQ—where 90 of the designer's team work on teasing the nuances out of the global brand.

The intense level of in-house research and fabric innovation is worn lightly, creating a raft of effects here that Bailey described with adjectives like "cloudy," "seductive," and "relaxed." The result: a lightened-up, youthful lineup of pragmatic day-to-day separates—like puffy-shouldered knits with a knot in the sleeve and pleated pants with rolled cuffs—that pays attention to delivering specialness while deflating any sense of showy luxe. Bailey promises this direction and color palette will inform his September show in London, a gala affair the Brit says he's already anticipating with a frisson of nerves: "I've been working for ten years, but it's my first show here, ever. So it's going to be really exciting."