Everything that Daniel Lee did in the lead-up to the reveal of his debut collection as Burberry’s chief creative officer hinted that the 37-year-old would take the heritage luxury house back to its distinctively British roots.
He resurrected the label’s archival Equestrian Knight Device – or EKD – motif that dates back to 1901, but was retired in 2018 by his predecessor Riccardo Tisci. He also took the brand’s logo out of blanding mode – the term used to describe the paring down of corporate logos with sans serif typefaces that’s been all the rage in recent years. In its place: serif (yes, serif!) typography with rounded edges and an off-beat, old-world charm.
Then, two weeks before the big show this February, he rolled out a campaign starring new-gen British personalities ranging from Georgia May Jagger and Liberty Ross to the rappers Shygirl and Kano dressed in what many would consider the most classic of Burberry: its trench coat. (Lee has an affinity for the garment – he hails from Bradford, Yorkshire, which is close to the town of Castleford, where Burberry handcrafts the iconic waterproof outerwear. He’s disclosed in interviews that he’s even had relatives work for the factories that supply the label.)
The first campaign by Daniel Lee for Burberry dropped two weeks before his debut runway show and featured British icons such as Georgia May Jagger (above) in the house’s trench coat with the revived Equestrian Knight Device logo.
No one expected how Lee would flex his Britishness for his first collection for the house: as the archetypal experimental, Central Saint Martins-trained Brit designer. Unveiled during London Fashion Week Fall Winter 2023, the line-up is punctuated with subversive remixes of traditional British tropes. Trench coats, for example, are oversized and stamped with equally XXL checks, while tartan kilts are to be worn layered over matching trousers – a look spot on Gen Z’s taste for Y2K-style layering. Meanwhile, the draped knits and evening dresses – at once elegant and punchy in crayon colours – bring to mind Lee’s very own graduation collection from 2011, which one reviewer then described as “a wardrobe for warriors of the wasteland”. Burberry officially enters its villain era.
One sees this individualistic, cheeky side in Lee’s play with prints, too – many of which are synonymous with British culture. The duck – a common sight across the UK – has turned up as a modernist, all-over pattern on crisp blouses and pleated skirts. The rose – England’s national flower – has been reimagined as metallic intarsia on knits, digital print on sweaters and 3D ruching on bags and shoes. Similarly, the swan – often regarded as a symbol of grace, beauty and transformation in Britain – has been given a graphic print treatment and accompanied by poetic slogans such as “Winds of Change” on tees that the streetwear crowd would lap up.
The EKD motif meanwhile pops up supersized on not just blanket coats, but also in metallic embroidery on a viscose dress that’s reworked from old flags. This needlework is a collaboration between Burberry and Hand & Lock – a business embellishing, embroidering and monogramming garments for the British royal family and military since the 18th century.
Daniel Lee’s debut Fall/Winter 2023 collection for Burberry is a riotous affair that plays on popular symbols of British culture. These include the swan, the duck, and the English rose. He has also parlayed his reputation as a maker of conceptual yet oh-so-desirable luxury bags. Clock the Knight (most top, left), an effortlessly chic hobo in grained leather, suede or shearling that features a cool, utilitarian-looking buckle in the form of a horse’s head as well as – on some models – a detachable faux fox fur tail charm.
But Burberry isn’t – and won’t be – just a go-to for luxurious ready-to-wear staples with a twist. In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily this February, the brand’s chief executive Jonathan Akeroyd – who had joined the company 11 months before – said he plans to double sales of leather goods at the house. This is one big reason he had hired Lee – the guy who, in three short years at Bottega Veneta, created more than 10 It bags – in the first place.
Introducing the Knight, Chess and Shield – three key bags designed by Lee for the brand. The first is what Burberry hopes will be his first runaway hit: a softly constructed hobo that sort of gets its name from the utilitarian clip – artfully constructed to form the appearance of a horse’s head – that functions as the buckle of its adjustable shoulder strap. Casual and cool, it can also be folded and carried as a clutch with certain variations flourished with a fun faux fox tail charm.
Meanwhile, the Chess is a classic-made-quirky flap bag with a “B”-shaped silhouette on its base and a metal horse chess piece attached to one end of its shoulder strap. The Shield, though, might be the brand’s greatest weapon in its endeavour to win over more of the younger set: a trendy asymmetrical pochette inspired by the shape of the armour carried by the knight figure in the EKD logo. The design’s “charm offensive”? A short strap with an oversized metal ball inspired by a bell (no, it doesn’t sound) attached to a bag loop.
Certainly, this brand of oddball chic is very refreshing and, at the same time, very British. Consider Daniel Lee the swan that’s bringing winds of change to Burberry. In the meantime, scroll on for a peep at some of the goods from Lee’s debut collection.