A star-studded LFW show – but does China dig Daniel Lee’s Burberry?

    Will Lee’s creative vision, along with Barry Keoghan, Tang Wei, and Skepta in the FROW, be enough for Burberry to recapture consumers’ hearts in China, its biggest market?
    Photo: Xiaohongshu
      Published   in Fashion

    Daniel Lee’s vision for Burberry took on a more solid shape when the brand presented its Fall/Winter 2024 collection at London Fashion Week.

    After a well-received rebrand, a Prorsum motif revival, and a debut show that divided opinion, Lee’s latest runway leaned hard into the Britishness that many around the world missed — something that was especially beloved in China, the brand’s biggest market.

    Heavy on heritage and classic Burberry icons, the Fall/Winter 2024 runway was all about long covetable trenches in leather, moleskin, and wool, tartans and cozy shearling fits, and equestrian-isms abounded, particularly in bags and boots.

    Deep V-necks, fluffy shearling, and zippered pants provided some high fashion excitement and flair to a collection dominated by a limited palette and silhouettes. There was also a focus on daring new accessories, the big sales drivers for the brand. And Lee’s new offerings have been big and beautiful, but not ludicrous nor capricious.

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    But there was plenty to write about beyond the fashion: prime Amy Winehouse belting out; the return of Brit models Agyness Deyn and Lily Donaldson who ruled the runways in Burberry’s golden era; and queen Naomi Campell in a fluffy dress.

    Every local(ish) celebrity seemed to be there (Skepta, Olivia Coleman, Burna Boy, Central Cee and Barry Keoghan), alongside Chinese ambassadors like Tang Wei and Chinese VIPs like artist Oscar Wang. Burberry even did an external and internal Harrod’s takeover prior to the show. 

    British rapper Skepta and Burberry ambassador Tang Wei attended Burberry’s LFW show. Photo: Burberry
    British rapper Skepta and Burberry ambassador Tang Wei attended Burberry’s LFW show. Photo: Burberry

    Burberry’s show was a budget-blowing masterclass in big fashion marketing. This is, after all, Britain’s biggest heritage high fashion brand — and the stakes are high.

    Chinese fans reservedly positive#

    But what did Chinese fashion fans think of the collection? We scoured Chinese social platforms Xiaohongshu and Weibo for comments post-show and found most commentary to be complimentary, albeit some reservedly so.

    Xiaohongshu user Blucoke said: “Perhaps this is Daniel Lee’s best performance, balancing Burberry’s classic elements with a rejuvenation, exhibiting commendable attention to detail. Some pieces possess a visibly tactile quality, though there still remains a sense of disorder overall, albeit much milder than before. However, Burberry’s pricing acts as a stumbling block, keeping consumers at bay.”

    This sentiment was echoed by many Chinese netizens who liked Lee’s direction and collection but complained about the brand’s recent price hikes. This is all, however, part of Burberry's strategic pivot: upping prices and repositioning the label within a more premium luxury segment, just as aspirational consumer demand weakens globally.

    Most responded positively to Lee’s Burberry vision, but some remarked that the take was a reinterpretation of his work at Bottega or even compared it to other designers like Phoebe Philo.

    Xiaohongshu user Neue Tanz added that the collection felt like “a fusion of Christopher Bailey and Phoebe Philo, with solid outerwear and captivating deconstructive details,” while Weibo user Youlan_NAna (@幽兰_NAna) remarked that “this season really improved a lot, with Daniel returning to the level of his BV [Bottega Veneta] period.”

    Some Chinese netizens remarked that Lee’s Burberry vision was a reinterpretation of his work at Bottega or compared it to other designers like Phoebe Philo.

    These debates are inevitable, especially on social media. And while they can be a barometer of public sentiment, they are unlikely to exactly reflect the opinions of Burberry’s target high-net-worth clientele.

    There is much to hope for a brand like Burberry. Its distinct history and British identity mark it out in the higher echelons of the luxury fashion world. Lee’s new blue and white checkered scarves seem to have some virality, and his clever lineup of bags is deliciously humorous and elegant. However, some fashion fans yearn for a little extra “oomph.”

    In January, Burberry presented its Chinese New Year collection at a pop-up in Hebei province, China. Photo: Burberry
    In January, Burberry presented its Chinese New Year collection at a pop-up in Hebei province, China. Photo: Burberry

    While Lee’s lo-fi style of visual communications for the brand may not translate as well into markets like China or APAC as well they do in the West, this latest LFW show has certainly given Burberry a boost among fashion’s inner circles and China’s netizens. A clear identifiable direction is key to success in luxury, and Lee’s is taking form.

    Weibo user Daoshanhuohaiyeshihou1 (@刀山火海也是猴1) commented that “elegant and classic Burberry is back again.”

    Meanwhile, Xiaohongshu user CaoTravis (@曹Travis) called the show “beautiful.”

    “The creative director has found the vibe — rock ‘n’ roll, rebellion, with a touch of ‘I don't care about anything,’ yet still maintains some of the elegance of Jane Eyre, tinged with the sadness of Amy's departure in the background music,” the poster wrote.

    Commercial rebound not yet underway#

    The latest fiscal news from Burberry, issued in November last year, is that the brand would miss its target of low single-digit growth for fiscal year 2024. This has put a dampener on the brand’s ability to engineer a big commercial rebound under Lee.

    The brand reported a notable sales slump in September 2023, coinciding with the debut of Lee’s inaugural runway creations and a revamped brand identity in stores.

    Reuters reported that demand in China had “evaporated,” and comparable store sales growth went from 18 percent in Q1 2023 to just 1 percent in 2Q 2023.

    Burberry CEO Jonathan Akeroyd said the revenue decline was “very much geared around the macro” elements of the luxury market, as opposed to the reception around Lee’s new products.

    Even so, this is a hard pill to swallow for the brand, considering that sales in mainland China had increased 46 percent YoY in the three months to July 1 2023.

    In those stellar results, propelled by China’s post lockdown rebound, Burberry highlighted outerwear (up 36 percent YoY) and heritage rainwear as categories that performed well.

    So perhaps it’s no wonder that Lee’s latest collection focused so much on outerwear looks, raincoats, trenches, tartans, and long floor-skimming skirts that nod to a low-key elegance befitting today’s era of quiet luxury. On global social media, there were comparisons to other UK outerwear heritage labels like Belstaff, but perhaps that is no bad thing in this climate.

    • Daniel Lee's latest Burberry collection was a strong return to British heritage, showing commercial potential to appeal to China, its largest global market.
    • With a drop in comparable store sales from 18 percent in Q1 2023 to just 1 percent in 2Q 2023, the brand is under pressure to churn out covetable staples.
    • Chinese netizens generally responded well to Lee’s vision, but there were some reservations, particularly regarding Burberry's recent price hikes and brand positioning.
    • Brands must not overestimate their legacy pull and account for client price hike fatigue or risk alienating China’s aspirational middle class consumer.
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