If ever there was a designer who could work endless magic on a single garment, it's Burberry Prorsum's design chief Christopher Bailey and the luxury brand's signature trench coat.
With prints, delicious colors and myriad styles both ladylike and sporty, Bailey wowed a star-studded crowd Monday with dozens of variations of the trench coat at Burberry's catwalk show for London Fashion Week.
The Burberry show is the weeklong fashion extravaganza's glitziest production, and drew a well-groomed crowd of celebrities including Kanye West, actresses Sienna Miller and Gemma Arterton, and tennis star Andy Murray.
Bailey, who has been at the helm of the historic British brand's designs for a decade, has been credited with revitalizing the once-fusty fashion house and boosting its international style credentials.
For the spring and summer 2012 season, he dished up a commercially savvy collection that ensured the clothes suited all tastes.
The classic waterproof trench _ a Victorian-era innovation credited to brand founder Thomas Burberry _ appeared variously in a slim-cut, buttery turquoise leather version, or with a feminine, cinched-in and full-skirted silhouette reminiscent of Christian Dior's New Look shape in the 1950s.
It also took the guise of cocoon-shaped jackets with poofy sleeves, as well as cropped, hooded parkas _ all retaining the gun flaps, epaulettes and utility features of the original coat.
Neutrals were ditched for rich autumnal hues such as rust, burnt orange, hunter green and mustard, which dominated alongside colorful abstract prints that looked tribal and earthy.
Raffia was everywhere, and woven, beaded or geometrically shaped embellishments were prominently used on tops, coats, thick belts and oversized bags.
"I thought it was fabulous," a smiling Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour said, before disappearing into the crowds.
Bailey said he wanted to celebrate traditional craftsmanship, such as hand weaving and beading, that is being forgotten _ and to juxtapose that with the digital technology that the brand is embracing.
"I like the fact that what we're actually showing takes time. It's slow and it's really beautiful," he told The Associated Press after the show, staged in a conservatory-like tent in Kensington Gardens just across from the Royal Albert Hall.
That is in direct contrast with the instant, online social media-driven marketing strategy that Burberry has been focusing on in the past few seasons. Shows are live-streamed around the world _ including on prominent Chinese websites to cater to the brand's significant number of wealthy Chinese customers _ and anyone who fancied the brand new runway styles can order them online straight away.
On Monday, the company even showed its Twitter fans each model's look before they hit the runway.
"We are 155 years old, but it's a very young team," said Bailey, 40. "I just think it's a natural extension of our company."
Bailey said he used so much color because he wanted the collection to be "joyous," and guests were pleasantly surprised when the show ended with a burst of copper confetti raining from the ceiling.
"I wanted the colors to make you smile," Bailey said.
Burberry's show followed those by Christopher Kane, another blockbuster display, Pringle of Scotland and Erdem earlier Monday as the fashion week reached its fourth day.
Kane, the young Scottish talent whose shows have become the week's hottest ticket in the past few seasons, showed an inventive collection rich with brocade-printed metallics and glittering embellishments.
Stiff-looking leather miniskirts and jackets with origami-style folds and slits had an opulent sheen, with their intricate gold, silver and mint green brocade patterns.
Standout pieces included shimmering cocktail dresses with floral prints _ some intricate and classically ornate, others childlike and psychedelic _ and an organza overlay. The effect, somewhat like marrying old curtains with gold foil, was bizarrely beautiful.
Surprisingly, the designer chose to pair his glamorous clothes with flat, rubber flip-flop like sandals _ a look sure to divide opinion.
PRINGLE OF SCOTLAND
Pringle, a "heritage" brand steeped in British history, showed its first womenswear collection to be headed by newcomer Alistair Carr, who joined the brand in March after a stint at Balenciaga in Paris.
Drawing inspiration from the brand's 200 years of history, the British designer took Pringle's iconic argyle patterns and twinsets and modernized them for a modern and elegant collection.
There were variations on the twinset throughout, with some cardigans unbuttoned at the back, and the argyle pattern was updated as a colorful abstract print on light sweaters and shirts. Silhouettes were relaxed and unfussy, and pops of canary yellow and turquoise provided some pleasing contrast to a palette dominated by white, grays and blush pink.
"I think he's supersonic," actress Tilda Swinton, the "face" of Pringle, said of Carr.
"He's taken an old lady texture and recycled the concept to make something modern. It's really clever," she told The Associated Press, before going backstage to give Carr a big hug.
Flowers and swallows, lace and chiffon: Soft femininity and romance were the order of the day at Erdem.
Erdem Moralioglu, the Canadian-born designer now based in London, displayed a collection of dreamy floral prints in soothing pastels, lacy dresses and flowing pleated skirts.
Working from a palette of butter, cornflower and creams, Erdem showed off the feminine form with features that hint at a bygone era: delicate short gloves in lace or floral prints that matched the wearer's dress, off-the-shoulder necklines, sheer lacy three-quarter sleeves.
Other pieces, like the high-waisted hot pants, retained the florals but kept the look modern and sexy.
London Fashion Week: http://www.londonfashionweek.co.uk/
Sylvia Hui can be reached at http://twitter.com/sylviahui