Riccardo Tisci wanted his fall/winter 2021 womenswear presentation for Burberry “to feel truly emblematic of the power of feminine energy”. Bold, confident silhouettes comprised the off-schedule showcase, which was held in the brand’s Regent Street flagship store.
Here, Vogue brings you five things to know about the collection.
1. It was an ode to femininity
Riccardo Tisci’s life has always revolved around women: from the cultural icons who have long inspired his designs (from Madonna to Mariacarla, his mononymed coterie is impressively expansive), to the eight sisters he grew up surrounded by. “They are like warriors,” he once told me of the latter. “Growing up, my mother taught us to never take any shit from anyone – and that’s probably why my woman is so powerful. Remember, we’re from the south [of Italy].” Today, in a Zoom preview of his new collection, he was in their family home – he returned to Italy to see his mother – and had just finished playing them the video which he later released on the world’s digital stage; some of them had their children this afternoon, and so would miss its official debut. “It was the first time I watched a show with all of my sisters,” he recalled. “It was very emotional: they were crying, I was crying. But all of them were attracted to something very powerful [in the collection]. And when I say powerful, I don’t mean maximal or minimal – because in minimalism, there is power. What I mean is power in how it reveals a woman – not her skin, but her femininity.”
2. It explicitly celebrated female power
This collection was designed with that sentiment at its core: Tisci’s understanding of feminine power expressed through trompe l’oeil trenches and glorious golden pailettes. Now that the designer feels settled in his role at the house, confidently attuned to its heritage and masculinity, he explained he wanted to inject womanhood into its core and “develop an identity for Burberry’s femininity… to me, femininity is about a woman who feels right in her body and is not scared to express herself”. In today’s world, “Women, more and more, are getting the power they deserve. There is far further to go – especially with the LGBTQ community, with trans women, with anti-racism – but, compared to when I started in fashion, they have much more power. I wanted to celebrate that,” he continued. As the light in the end of the Covid tunnel flickers into sight, Tisci saw that sentiment aligning with the figure of Mother Nature. “After a war – and what we have gone through with Covid is a bacterial war – we all want to be with nature, in nature,” he noted. “And Mother Nature is what gives us life. Without women, the world couldn’t exist.” So the animal pelt prints and faux-furs which defined his fall/winter 2021 menswear re-emerged here – but interspersed with slick tailoring and sensual, twisted drapery.
3. ShyGirl became Mother Nature
The preface to the runway depicted London musician ShyGirl performing as Mother Nature, reciting a spoken word performance while representing her embodiment (dressed, of course, in a custom Burberry corset). Tisci had recently met the 27-year-old singer and rapper through Instagram – how else does anyone meet anyone during this time? – and became instantly besotted by her. “London is a place where a young generation can really scream their voice, and Shy – besides her talent and her beauty – really struck me with her confidence in what she’s saying, and who she wants to be,” he says. “I fell in love. When you are your most authentic self, that’s when you connect the most with people,” she told Vogue. “You can’t connect if you’re trying to be something that you’re not.”
Since joining Burberry, Tisci has gravitated towards the eccentricity intrinsic to this country’s style codes. “Every culture has its eccentricity – but it is usually a part of the young generation. In Britain, it is expressed through all ages, all identities,” he explained. In this collection he continued his exploration of “an aristocratic lady who is still very punk”: a spirit best exemplified by the late Stella Tennant, who was a formative inspiration for Tisci both throughout his career and especially since joining the British house, where she has been one of his campaign stars and runway models. To Tisci, she embodied the idea that “aristocracy isn’t a financial thing: it’s a playfulness explored with elegance”. That sensibility manifested through classics spliced and twisted, de- and re-constructed; British flags turned into bold bright body-con or abstracted graphics. It maintained the same, radically renegade spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement that inspired his menswear, but diverted in a new direction.
Tisci was presenting his vision of “modern armour” through an alignment of the sensuality which has long defined his personal aesthetic with the codes of the house he has now helmed for three years. “I feel much more myself here now, much more at home,” he smiled – and you could especially see that in the glitziest numbers, which shone. “After a war, there is always freedom and the highest artistic expression,” he reflected. This was his realisation of that expressive liberation, transposed onto the women who he has always sought to empower. In those golden numbers, you’d struggle to feel anything but.
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk