It seems not a season goes by without a debut or reshuffle to get excited about. The infamous game of fashion musical chairs aside, there is something to be said about anticipating what kind of energy a new designer will bring. In the case of Daniel Lee, a designer who was instrumental in reinventing the Bottega Veneta brand and creating influencer starter kits in the form of its puddle boots and cassette bags, the anticipation was palpable.
Hosting the final show of the London Fashion Week calendar, the Lee debut was watched on by one of the British designers heroes and former Burberry Chief Creative Officer, Christopher Bailey. A man who is also very familiar with the art of revival, being that he also rescued the British heritage brand from its status as an unofficial uniform for football fanatics. Reimagining the trench coat for a generation of upcoming ‘It’ girls in the early to mid-2000s.
I was inspired by an English Rose and not all roses are red
Daniel Lee, Chief Creative Officer Burberry
Sharing with The Impression backstage, the designer noted that “I was inspired by an English Rose and not all roses are red”. Alluding to a show that was going to upend expectations. The trench coat was supersized and the ubiquitous house check rethought, with tartan standing in as a possible placeholder, for this season at least. All-over yellows and regal purples seem to be the palette of the season for London, and when the latter was blended with forest green it was reminiscent of the thistle flower, an example of all the symbolism that makes up Britishness and what it means to be part of the United Kingdom, which was weaved in and amongst the narrative of todays collection.
Lee made a very strong start with the accessories that accompanied the clothes, a fact that should surprise no one, and will be a welcome triumph for the fashion house. As many a brand has made a living off its handbag and footwear categories alone. Chunky equestrian-inspired rain boots, square-toe fur-trimmed sandals, and ‘amplified’ sneakers, according to show notes will all fly off the shelves come late summer. And Burberry becoming known for its sneakers would definitely solidify its appeal to a younger generation, who were already becoming avid fans due to the brands predecessor and his casting of musicians such as afrobeats artist Burna Boy in prominent campaigns.
The fall 2023 collection felt very much like an exercise in reintroducing some of the silhouettes that popularised the house under Baileys tenure. Drop-waist dresses, statement knits, sharp tailoring, and blanket coats. Could lightning strike twice and this style see the same success as a particular monogrammed iteration from fall 2014, which was worn by a parade of models to close the show, led by Cara Delevigne. Becoming marketing gold as it was spotted on celebrities and tastemakers (this was at a time pre-influential influencer).
Looking closer the designer is also establishing some interesting plays on construction and detail, as well as a few new silhouettes of his own. A draped asymmetric hem on a white sheath dress printed with an update on the Equestrian Knight Design (EKD), an angled necklace (that will be familiar to those that know and were fans of his previous work), and a boxy buckle collared tunic top. He also took outerwear to a place where it is not just purely functional, but when adorned with an application of ombré feathers, becomes decadently decorative. It should also be noted that the feathers worked better on the oversized coat over the menswear knitted piece. The elements of punk which popped up in the collection – zip-front pants, graphic T-shirts, and tartan – whether deliberate or not, also happened to make for a fitting nod to the late Dame Vivienne Westwood.
And as if sending a subliminal message to any naysayers, those aforementioned graphic T-shirts were printed with the words “Winds of Change”, an indication that a change is coming and Lee is ready to weather any headwinds.
Love it or hate it, this is only Daniel Lee’s first outing at a brand with a storied history, not just from its own archives but also from the nation from which it was birthed. So a degree of Burberry and Britishness needs to be baked into each collection, and in completing that task, he succeeded. Further critique should be reserved for at least a few seasons yet, because for a designer with a proven track record (yes it may have been with one brand, but the sales and legacy speak for themselves), a little ‘Lee’ way should be given for him to truly decipher whether he can make a home with, and success of, Burberry. And as if sending a subliminal message to any naysayers, those aforementioned graphic T-shirts were printed with the words “Winds of Change”, an indication that a change is coming and Lee is ready to weather any future headwinds.