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  • Alexis Negrín


For the last few months, big fashion houses have been scrambling for ways to remain in lockstep with the annual cadence of the industry. COVID-19, however, has had other ideas, and top designers haven’t been able to flaunt their wares.

Now, though, top designer and regular feature of the fashion scene, Burberry, says that it will be showcasing its upcoming spring 2021 in September, just a couple of months behind schedule.

The show will feature in-person models on the catwalk, but the audience would be online only, ruling out the possibility of live spectators. If Burberry goes ahead with the show on September 17, it will be the first time in its history it has debuted new ranges online.

The brand says it is reimagining what it does in light of recent events. The global pandemic has prevented it from completing its regular marketing cycle - a move that has made it more difficult for the firm to shift its products. Stores haven’t been open, and apparel sales are down from where they would ordinarily be for the time of year, owing to challenging trading conditions.

Burberry AW20 Runway.

Burberry is likely to engage in some retrenchment, releasing lines that hark back to its traditional roots of honest, robust, outdoor clothing. Some of the extravagances of recent years are likely to disappear as the brand tries to talk to a broader audience in the weeks ahead.

According to a recent press release, the company intends to continue drawing inspiration from nature. Themes paralleling the British countryside will continue to inform the majority of design decisions. And there will be a renewed focus on simplicity, paring back the brand to where it was a decade ago.

Burberry confirmed that it would be drawing inspiration from nature across the board as a way to bring together its global audience. The hope is that the brand will capture the imagination of its customers as they begin to venture outdoors for the first time in many many months. As humans, the brand says, we have a close affinity for nature. We want to explore mountains, spend time on rugged coastlines, and experience the breaking of day in all of its extraordinary beauty - past times that have increased since the lockdown and the furloughing of millions of workers.

The new Burberry lines are designed to evoke the natural world, according to the creative directors at the brand. Apparel should reflect themes in nature that go beyond culture. They should also speak to community and public spirit - essential considerations in a time of crisis.

Burberry’s decision to host a fashion event is a display of optimism from an industry that has been suffering over recent months. The brand has not yet announced where the show will take place, but there are strong rumours that it will be outdoors.

The move online will make the show one of the most inclusive in history. People who cannot afford to travel to far-flung locations, such as Paris, London and New York, will be able to indulge from home. Viewers can sign-in via a company-provided portal and watch live.

Industry commentators suggest the move could usher in a new way of promoting fashion if COVID-19 becomes a long-term issue. Other fashion houses may follow Burberry's lead if they believe live audiences present an unacceptable infection risk.

Burberry says that the show will be an immersive experience. It is not yet clear whether this is marketing spin or whether the brand has something technological up its sleeve, such as allowing people to experience the event in virtual reality - a concept the fashion industry has been floating for some time.

Burberry’s move is significant for London Fashion Week. The brand is the biggest in this year’s lineup and the keystone for the entire event. It is also a leader in sustainability and is using its Back to Nature theme to push this point home, even amid the COVID-19 crisis. Many view its decision to avoid in-person attendance as a brave move, designed to cut its carbon footprint and overall resource usage.

Burberry Pre-Fall 2020 - Campaign.

Burberry is likely to showcase practically all of its product lines for spring-summer 2021 at the show, including accessories. Sites like who sell Burberry spectacles will be keeping a close eye out for the brand’s latest designs.

Burberry has suffered financially over recent months, as has the eyewear market. The company decided in June not to pay its shareholders their usual dividend, representing a significant haircut for investors in the brand. Investors were scheduled to receive a combined £120 million, according to But the company has struggled during the lockdown, particularly following the closure of its stores.

The company has plenty of cash on its balance sheet. But a payout of the size planned could potentially put the firm at risk of cash flow problems, should the crisis continue to affect the retail side of the business.

The decision to theme the event around nature ties in with the brand's growing reliance on the Asian market, particularly China. The cash will go towards a renewed global marketing effort by the firm. Burberry will focus its recovery on the Asian market, which provided most of its growth in 2018 and 2019, tailoring its themes of British nature to appeal to that particular audience.

Burberry is just one of dozens of companies across the fashion industry announcing dividend cuts for investors. Investor income could halve in 2020 under the worst-case scenario and may not recover fully until mid-2023.

Burberry, however, is hunkering down and focusing on its marketing and financial viability. This prudence will put it in good stead for the future. The brand intends to be around for a long time to come and is clearly pivoting towards the Far East in search of future sales. So far, these markets remain less affected than their western counterparts, suggesting that the company's decision is prudent.

Burberry Pre-Fall 2020 - Campaign.

Men's fashion has suffered a slight set back in recent months. But Burberry's September show could be the beginning of the resurgence of the industry to pre-crisis levels.

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