The See Now Buy Now Age Is Here! Burberry Makes It Official With Gender-Fluid Collection

You'll want to read Virginia Woolf's 'Orlando' to get in the mood​

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Confession: I saw the new Burberry collection months ago. 

It was June. Lorraine, Anne-Marie and I headed down to the brand's headquarters, signed NDAs, and walked through a series of studios, as a publicist talked us through the Elizabethan tapestries tacked onto the walls, the Nancy Lancaster references on the moodboard and the homage to Virginia Woolf's Orlando running through the regal, embroidered cavalry jackets and tasseled coats hanging on the mannequins. 

Afterwards, we discussed how Burberry would align the stars in order to create the perfect storm, one in which they would show those very clothes to the world at the moment it would go on sale globally ('How will it look?' 'How will production work?') And as we drove away and back towards the office, plans were made to shoot the clothes for our October issue, which would hit newsstands the following day.  

Lily James Cover ELLE UK October 2016
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Fast-forward three months, and here Lorraine, Anne-Marie and I are again. Walking through a much bigger, more elaborate version of that presentation we all saw back in June. The little hallways and studios with fabric swatches have been transformed into a bespoke Burberry space called Makers House, containing workrooms filled with craftswomen and men demonstrating the handiwork that went into making the collection. 

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Burberry September 2016

The same Elizabethan textiles are pinned to the walls. And even grander Nancy Lancaster and Orlando references permeate the space. On the floor above, a runway spanning three rooms where the September collection would make its global debut and go on sale immediately.

Burberry
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That, in a nutshell, is just a fraction of Burberry's journey towards 'See Now, Buy Now', a movement the brand first instigated in an effort to close the gap between when a consumer sees a runway collection and when it hits the sales floor. 

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'It was the culmination of a series of important changes we made to bring our collections closer to our customers,' Bailey said in a statement following the show. And if enough brands follow their lead (Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford and Topshop have already adopted direct-to-runway models), it could transform the way the entire fashion industry operates, from factory production to magazine coverage. All eyes are on Burberry. Here, the key talking points from the big night.

1) It's fluid fashion inspired by Virginia Woolf's Orlando

The clothes — languid silk pyjamas, ruffled high-collar shirts, elegant sweatshirts and lush pea coats — had a gender-bending fluidity that was intentional. Men and women wore the same bell-sleeved knits and tasseled boots. 

Burberry September 2016

And while Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey cited Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando as an inspiration because it's 'a love letter to the past and to English history,' the novel is also about a man who unexpectedly transitions to womanhood and seemed to allow for some handy mixing of men's and women's wear. And for the uninitiated, copies of the novel were left on everyone's seats as name cards.

Alexa Chung with her copy of 'Oralndo'

2) It's 'seasonless' and fairly simple

In the world of Burberry, autumn/winter and spring/summer collections are no longer. They've simplified things by calling this offering, the September collection. 

Burberry September 2016

That also explains how in a week of frothy, floaty SS17 dresses, the Burberry collection is filled with outerwear — beautifully embroidered officer's coats, elaborately tasseled capes and rustic shearling jackets — hitting stores now, just as a chill is beginning to settle in the air. 

It's a September collection, made up of weather-appropriate clothing, hitting stores in September. Imagine that. 

3) The clothes are on sale now

All 83 women's and men's looks (made up of 250 pieces in total), and the make-up colours worn by the models, are on sale in Burberry bricks-and-mortar and e-commerce stores worldwide, as well as the Makers House, which is actually a glorified pop-up store and will be open to the public for the next five days.  

4) And there are twice as many

Remember the AW16 collection shown on the runway in February? That's in Burberry stores too. 

Think of AW16 as the yin to the September collection's yang. Classic, collegiate, military coats for AW16 vs the regal, blingy tailcoats for September. And multicoloured snakeskin stomper boots for AW16 versus the gilded, tasseled variety for September. 

Burberry September 2016

It's a lot of choice, yes. But one Burberry die-hards will no doubt be into.

5) The music is available to buy too

Because it isn't a Burberry show without a music moment, a 21-piece orchestra performed an original composition at the show. And you can now buy a recording of its performance of, Reliquary on iTunes.

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