There are two types of Britishness: urban London Britishness, which is too often clichéd and touristy, involving bowler hats, red telephone boxes and the like, and, then, there's the Britishness of the countryside, which comprises of green rolling hills, National Trust properties with colourful herbaceous borders all soundtracked by the theme of The Antiques Roadshow.
Left - The not-so-secret garden at the entrance of Burberry's pop-up Makers House
The British countryside is basically a giant garden dotted with the history of people aiming to perfect their little corner of it and that's why we all love to be tourists in it, regardless of where we are from.
And, it is this Britishness that Burberry has mined for its latest show and show space, which has been opened to the general public for a week afterwards and is called Makers House.
Right - Makers are gonna make. The day I went it was bookbinding
Located in the old Foyles book store on Charing Cross Road, on the edge of Soho, Burberry has teamed up with British craft collective, The New Craftsmen, showcasing their hand-working skills, making everything from tassels to keys to scissors. There are different people displaying different skills, on each day, creating theatre in the bottom of the space.
Just to be clear, these people didn’t produce anything for the new Burberry collection, but it’s an illustration of the type of skills involved. I guess Burberry needed huge volumes and a long lead time if they were able to be the first brand to fully deliver their new ‘See Now, Buy Now’ concept worldwide, all at the same time, both offline and online.
Left - One of the standout pieces of the menswear show
You can buy their products in a small shop here, but I think Burberry missed a trick by not including a few of their own products. Maybe a few of the classic pieces.
Right - A print taken from the V&A archive and used in the collection and on the show seating
Alongside them is a pop-up branch of Thomas’, the Burberry café from Regent Street, which has to be one of the best of the big brand versions of this type of thing, offering seasonal British fare all served on British made tables and chairs, and in this case, leading onto a garden of white busts and classical plaster casts contrasted with lush green planting that welcomes you at the entrance.
It’s like Daylesford Organic has comes to Soho, hostas and all, in this mix of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Nancy Lancaster’s decorating skills, (she was the owner of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler), and a celebration of the great and good of British history all lined up like a friendly who’s, who. I feel like we may have been given a glimpse of Christopher Bailey’s Yorkshire lifestyle. He has to spend all those millions somewhere after all. This is the fantasy perfection of British country living that we never seem to tire of and one which Burberry has used as inspiration before such as Charleston in Sussex or gardening at Sissinghurst.
Left - TheChicGeek on the poetry staircase doing his best Rapunzel impression!
Upstairs, where the catwalk show was, 83 mannequins show off the full collection of men’s and women’s wear, 250 pieces in total, where you can look at the details and touch the fabrics. Everything is available now, if you can afford it, and the collection was Bailey’s usual strong balance of wearability and fashion. Think artist-like relaxed shirts with ruffled collars and cuffs interplayed with brocade and cropped shearlings and slouchy trousers. I particularly like the orange/biscuit coloured shearling and 30s style printed pyjama shirts. The green carpet design was taken from a garden print from the V&A.
Right - The Tudors are back! Taking the ruff with the smooth
Burberry took a risk on the ‘See Now, Buy Now’ concept, but I think they’ve pulled it off. Unlike other brands, this show season, who have made it a token gesture to gain attention and PR, this is full on and took some organisation. I guess many items had to be comprised or changed to fulfil the tight delivery dates, but it doesn't show.
Left - Pieces of Michelangelo's David looking over his shoulder while a sculptor builds up his clay maquette
I like the way it’s been opened up to the public. You spend all that money on the show space, you may as well as justify it by making it customer facing, especially now they’re selling the items straight away. I can’t wait to see how they will top this in February.
Many other luxury brands will be watching this enviously and wondering whether they could or should do the same.
Right - Nancy Lancaster's bed from her house, Ditchley Park
In a post-brexit world I think Burberry should take this whole concept on a world tour. Tokyo, Shanghai, and Mumbai would relish this little outpost of Britishness, pots plants and all. We have to remember there’s a big world outside of London.
Burberry Makers House Open Until 27th September 2016, 1 Manette Street, London, W1D 4AT
How many of these great British figures can you name?