When Christopher Bailey said he wanted the clothes in Burberry Prorsum's pre-collection to look like they'd had a life before you met them, he was talking about much more than that slightly faded, vintage-y English rose mood that his Burberry has evoked so expertly in the past. Here, the texture of a dress in ruched and washed leather suggested something much more ancient—a sunbaked lizard's skin, perhaps. That was in keeping with the exotic subtext Bailey was exploring. He started with uniforms from the British colonies in the 1930's and forties that he found in the company archives, which meant plenty of the authentic military shapes and detailing—belts (the best in python), utility pockets, epaulets, wrist straps—that added spine to Burberry's standout Fall collection.

But then Bailey injected some urban steam heat with silhouettes so fitted they brought a whole new sexiness to the house vocabulary. Lightweight stretch fabrics limned the body. Legs were defined by thigh-high boots. And the iconic trench was reconfigured in ultralight cowhide or cotton sateen, proposed as a lean, mean coat-dress clasped with a wide belt. A crocheted cotton slip dress might sound demure, but it was hot enough for Liz Taylor's Maggie the Cat. That hint of Hollywood sizzle was reinforced in a leopard-printed rabbit fur coat—on paper, a cool-weather item, but produced here in a surprising warm-weather weight. It underscored the glamorous edge—or is that edgy glamour?—of a collection that reflected the burgeoning sophistication of Bailey's Burberry.