June 23rd, 2015  |  Published in June 2015

While the vast majority of fashion that comes down international runways is created for women, men’s fashion does have a unique presence within the fashion calendar. As we speak, many brands are unveiling their Spring/Summer 2016 collections and they range from traditional to avant-garde.

Falling squarely in the middle of that spectrum is Burberry, the British luxury brand known for the invention of the trench coat. Since designer Christopher Bailey became the brand’s Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer in 2014, Burberry has been modernized to the 21st century and, in many ways, has moved from a heritage to a fashion brand. For Spring/Summer 2016, Bailey and his team chose to present its Burberry Prorsum menswear collection in the very British setting of London’s Kensington Gardens to the music of singer Rhodes.

The main focal point of the collection, aptly entitled Strait-Laced, was the use of lace in nearly every look. “Some men will wear lace, and some men will not. But I like the poetry the lace brings with it,” said Bailey. But the lace was not simply just adhered to clothing to add adornment. The designer worked with British artisans to weave the cotton lace specifically for the collection and then infused it wholeheartedly into it.

In a play on masculine and feminine, Bailey combined his specially-made lace with silhouettes that seemingly came straight out of a thoroughly modern office boardroom. That’s the thing about this collection, it was menswear taken to the next logical step by adding in ever-more interesting details of color and texture. The elements grow bolder and bolder with the passing seasons, but the looks don’t jump light years ahead purely for shock value.

Looking deeper at this collection, something besides the lace work is also quite noticeable. Of the 54 looks presented, 11 of those looks were for women and presented on female models. Truth be told, this is not an unusual thing to see. Brands often present some womenswear pieces in their menswear shows. But unusual or not, it does beg the question as to why.

Are the menswear pieces not strong enough to capture the audience’s attention on their own? Is fashion only a women’s interest and thus women’s fashion should always be included in some way? Or does how men dress only matter when complemented by the presence of women? Apparently this was a strategic choice of Burberry. To showcase the women’s Pre-Spring collection at the same time as its menswear was a strategic choice on Burberry’s part. It certainly worked out since this womenswear collection also has a very strong lace theme throughout.

But the inclusion of women in the show somehow takes away from the grandeur of including a traditionally feminine element as a main tenet of a menswear collection in the first place. Imagine if Mr. Bailey had simply sent out a full retinue of his lace office-appropriate looks on their own. It would’ve been a stronger statement on masculine vs. feminine and would have said to the world “yes, men wear lace.”

If anything, statement or not, it would most certainly would have given a clearer look inside the mind and closet of the Burberry man, the Burberry man without a woman at his side.

–Jennifer Perusek

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