Burberry's results continue to defy gravity, so it's obvious that Christopher Bailey has found a formula that works. The problem with formulae is that they become…well…formulaic. This pre-collection will likely linger in stores longer than any other collection Bailey applies himself to during the year, so maybe it was the commercial expectations attached to such an idea that made it feel like he soft-pedaled on the charming twists that have been making Prorsum so winning of late. There were no ethnic oddities, no artisanal flourishes; and any hint of True Brit eccentricity (which was, you may recall, the path down which Bailey originally launched the label) was squeezed by the kind of sexed-up tough edge that's comprehensible in any language. Bailey may even have been poking fun at it when he attached a brazen black bra to a strapless cocktail dress whose ruched bodice and deflated pouf otherwise made it look oddly prim. But there was no room for humor in laser-sharp commercially honed pieces that tailored the company's heritage to the nth—cropping bombers and flight jackets, pairing them with pencil skirts. Corsetry made the wasp waists even more acute.

Bailey's comment last season about the challenge of blending Burberry's physical and digital worlds suggested he appreciates the tension between the company's past and future. Again, he may well have been having a little fun when he used spacy metallics for the latest update of the classic trench. But it also feels like the designer has been using the 1930's to bring the personality a lot recently. This collection was no exception. The prints and faded colors (the covers of Virginia Woolf books were apparently a reference) injected some Bloomsbury gentility into the surging bloodstream of twenty-first-century Burberry. The leanly elongated eveningwear in brocades, lamé, and silk sheathed in gold lace also had a decorous grace. But neither was enough to leaven that all-conquering formula. Guess we'll have to wait for Fall.