How does a luxury brand become a “cult classic”? Answering such a simple question seems at first, to deliver an expectedly straightforward response. Maybe it’s a simple design ethos that’s impenetrable to trend culture, maybe it’s the creation of a limited piece, exclusively reserved for celebrities or those in the know? Achieving cult status means making a significant impact within culture and fashion; doubling down on who you are and what you value, but most importantly how you realise said values in the world. And yet, when showing up today, luxury fashion can’t shake its obsession with the past.
Luxury loves history. “Heritage” continues to play a huge role in how luxury brands operate. It remains a safe space, in both design inspiration and personal history, during moments of scandal (see Balenciaga’s post-BDSM controversy). The fashion industry now has a tried and tested (read boring) formula that happens every time a new designer takes over: wiping the social channels clean, PR announcement, the introduction of a new logo design. We already know that there’s nothing new under the sun, and yet, brands such as Burberry, are managing to reclaim the concept of heritage by refocusing the brand’s expression of a new British sensibility.
Having already applied the standard new tenure formula to announce Daniel Lee’s arrival, the British heritage house took to the streets of London during Fashion Week to reinvent their modern luxury narrative and reclaim the throne of British style. Brought to life in new and innovative ways - that might feel more streetwear than luxury fashion - Burberry announced a series of immersive experiences, installations and events set to unfold across the city - each showcasing the brand’s signatures, such as seasonal check in knight blue, rose print, and the newly redefined Equestrian Knight design - paying tribute to the brand’s archive - that are Lee’s signature brand motifs. As noted by AnOther Magazine, "Lee's arrival at Burberry signifies at once "an exercise in shifting and rebranding" and a return to the origins for a label that since its foundation in 1856, has become synonymous with Britishness in all its cultural incarnations."
In pursuit to drive this further, the brand has taken over icons of British culture, including the Bond Street Underground tube stop, aptly renamed “Burberry Street” and launched a takeover of Norman’s, the North London café renowned for its British cuisine. The activation coincides with the highly anticipated launch of Winter 2023, Daniel Lee’s first collection for the brand – now available both in store and online, alongside a redesign of its e-commerce website, marking a new era and creative vision for Burberry.
“Burberry flies the flag for Britishness and for the UK and for culture. So, we have to use our platforms because we have a responsibility to communicate those things,” Lee told Vogue Runway in December. "I don’t know if this is the right way to say this, but more than surprising people, I really would like them to see the new vision and feel reassured — like, ‘Oh, yeah, this makes sense: This is what Burberry should be.’”
The LFW show continued the next-gen Britishness streak, taking over London’s Highbury Fields with a giant tent adorned in the new check print. Cult classics came thick and fast down the runway. Trenches and scarves galore, all served up with a healthy dose of British wit and September drizzle, acutely demonstrating Lee's continued ambition to re-define modern Britishness for a global luxury audience. This is Lee's Burberry London, we're just living in it.
So, what does it really mean to create a “cult classic?” Ultimately, it’s about understanding the past and pushing the limits of possibility forwards. Cult classics are founded in heritage, inspired by today’s culture, and perhaps allusion to the ambitious energy of tomorrow.