This year’s London Fashion Week represented a real change in the tide as the ruthlessly exclusive fashion industry opened its doors to new technologies and millennial influencers. GDR Innovation Researcher Sophia Platts-Palmer visited Burberry’s two-storey Makers House pop-up to see how the quintessentially British brand embraced the future, while staying true to its artisanal past.
Burberry has taken advantage of the crossover between London Fashion Week and London Design Festival by collaborating with Mayfair-based home and lifestyle store The New Craftsmen to convert a vacant two-storey building in the heart of London’s Soho into an experiential pop-up exhibition. I went to visit the Makers House, which celebrates both the brand’s newest collection and Britain’s rich heritage of craft.
Launched on 20 September, Makers House adopts a studio-inspired atmosphere with nods to the British bohemianism of the 20th century intellectual set The Bloomsbury Group, whose Virginia Woolf inspires the ornate, gender-fluid SS17 collection. A statue lined courtyard and buzzy bar/cafe provides a perfect meeting place for fashion and design lovers, with a look influenced by the work of interior designer Nancy Lancaster of Colefax and Fowler, the firm best known for restoring the 16th century Oxfordshire stately home Ditchley Park. The upstairs gallery provided the location for Burberry’s Spring/Summer 2017 see-now, buy-now collection, which was also streamed live on Apple TV.
At the heart of the experience, Makers House offers a free, daily changing programme of activities and demonstrations provided by The New Craftsmen’s roster of contemporary British craftspeople, including sculptors, calligraphers, tanners, performers and makers. On display were nods to Burberry’s own rich artisanal past with an exhibition of heritage items including a 1920’s classic Burberry trench coat, hosiery and tools from its atelier.
Burberry even jumped on the ever-popular scent marketing bandwagon. I found the perfumed incense wafting across the courtyard from amongst the foliage a nice addition to the experience by adding an inviting and sensory dynamic.
The weeklong initiative provides a perfect platform for the promotion of the new collection and combines both the physical and digital worlds. Makers House juxtaposes traditional craft with technological innovation and reflects the shift in how fashion brands are connecting with their public.
Burberry’s approach highlights the value of traditional craftsmanship to this luxury brand, exploring the crucial discourse surrounding the fusion of technology and fashion. Much like the arts and craft movement asked in the late 19th century, where does traditional craft fit in in a world of rapid technological change and how does it stay relevant? Although fashion and tech are fusing, which I find undeniably exciting, the magic of stepping into Burberry and The New Craftsmen’s Makers House proves that artisanal roots of fashion and design can be celebrated through, and alongside, technology.