Why Fashion Critics Should Stop Hating on Burberry’s LFW Show

Critics were unimpressed with Burberry’s Spring 2011 collection, which debuted in London this week. The general consensus is that designer Christopher Bailey has turned out a cheap, passé, biker-chic look that was worsened by the extremely spiky heels that several models had to remove before the end of the show and led to one model’s tumble on the catwalk. {NYT}

Burberry models were forced to remove their killer heels to make it down the runway at London Fashion Week

The fashion business being what it is (and by “what it is,” we mean obsessively terrified of the Internet and of the firm belief that if everyone ignores it, it will go away), the other general consensus is that Burberry produced a sub-par collection because the label was too focused on its online push and embrace of Internet business tools to create a high quality, inspired line.

Indeed Burberry has been one of the few members of the fashion community to embrace technology and work to use the Internet to its advantage. In addition to broadcasting past shows live in 3-D for a worldwide audience, they have an entire site devoted to the Art of the Trench and once enlisted Elle‘s Joe Zee, a top Twitter user in the fashion biz, to hijack their feed and tweet coverage of a Burberry show. Their recent show in London was available in live-stream online, with many of the clothes made available for purchase immediately afterward and set to be delivered in a few months. {The Cut}

Stupid question alert: why on earth do these smart initiatives mean Bailey cannot turn out a high quality, impressive collection? We’re not mad that critics, as a whole, did not like the clothes. That is fair enough. We’re just wondering how anyone comes to the conclusion that the cause is Bailey focusing too much attention on Internet business tools.

For one thing, Bailey probably does not have much to do with creating Burberry’s online presence. The label likely has a public relations and digital marketing team that is responsible for their push into cyber land. For another, fashion designers have been juggling creativity and business management for decades. Their ability to do so should not change just because certain business practices are evolving.

Cathy Horyn at The New York Times made the only legitimate argument for why focusing on Internet initiatives would cause a designer to turn out a less impressive collection:

“Indeed, the many leather jackets and coats — plain, studded and in gold snakeskin with stretch pants and skimpy dresses — seemed primed for Web sales; much of the collection was to be offered for immediate sale and delivered in about two months. Hence a style that was seasonless rather than overtly spring.”

That makes perfect sense. So maybe Bailey and Burberry did get this one wrong, but you know what? The Internet is the future, and everyone in fashion cannot run and hide from it forever. Those that refuse to embrace it will likely end up irrelevant very soon. Therefore, we applaud Bailey and his team at Burberry for at least making an attempt to adapt to the times. After all, what good is a high quality, outstandingly creative collection if no one outside a few magazine editors knows about it or wants to buy the clothes from it?

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