But even with a collection called “Time,” Mr. Bailey’s swan song wasn’t a retrospective.
“I didn’t want this collection to be some maudlin sad thing,” he said. “I wanted it to be optimistic but talking about the past as well.” (There’s that word again, “optimistic” — one that crops up when optimism is needed, rather than in ample supply.)
It’s a noble sentiment, to go off on a note of newness. But it’s also a bit of a shame. Over the course of his years at Burberry, he took a trench coat supplier and pushed it to the forefront of British fashion. Even if his recent collections have fallen a bit off the mark, he has earned a victory lap.
His new collection wasn’t bad but it was thin: a thrift-shop-style mix of bits, a jumble of track suits, logo-fied sweats (a new/old Burberry logo retrieved from the ’80s and ’90s archives to compete in the yet-again logo-saturated luxury market), long ball skirts, clompy sneakers, printed shearlings and so on.
Where he seemed to pour most of his passion was into rainbow-striped pieces — rainbow even worked into the Burberry check — to telegraph support for L.G.B.T.Q.+ charities; Burberry will also make a substantial donation to three, the Albert Kennedy Trust, the Trevor Project and the ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association).
Yes, glamour can be resistance. When Cara Delevingne sashayed out at the end in a rainbow-striped, check-lined faux fur cape to the strains of “I Feel Love,” she brought an energy the collection generally lacked. A rainbow light show followed. Burberry, the giant of London, is capable of fireworks when it pleases.
So was Mr. Bailey. With a small bow to all four flanks of the room, he took his final turn. Standing ovations are rare in fashion, but the room rose to its feet. They felt love. And now, the next chapter.