It was a wet and blustery day in a gray industrial estate in southeast London, but Riccardo Tisci was determined to head to the beach. Little wonder, given that the trip was nine days delayed and there were bumps on the road to get there.
This season was meant to herald a starry return to London Fashion Week for Burberry after several years away from the calendar. Rumor had it that Mr. Tisci, the chief creative officer of Burberry, which is Britain’s largest luxury brand by sales, was planning a spectacle of a show in one of the city’s most historic landmarks, Trafalgar Square.
But then Queen Elizabeth II died. As Britain plunged into a period of national mourning, many plans were thrown into disarray. Most brands opted to carry on. Burberry postponed. On the new show date, Sept. 26, usually a day for travel from the Milan to Paris shows, much of fashion’s traveling circus rerouted back to London.
And with a few exceptions — despite the alternative site and perpetual drizzle — everyone was dutifully there. There was Kanye West, in black socks and diamond flip-flops. Also the British rapper Stormzy, the actor Daniel Kaluuya and the entirety of the London Contemporary Orchestra, seated with their instruments and dressed in white shirts, sharp black suits and baseball caps. Ready for a collection that Mr. Tisci, in his show notes, said drew inspiration from the British seaside. Not cliffs or sand or shells, but “rather the beach as a crux of society, a crucible of humanity.”
“In summer, in Britain, the beach is a place of democracy, of community, where people from all cultures can join together in simple pleasures,” the notes read.
Perhaps more than any other fashion brand, Burberry has defined what Britain looks like to the rest of the world. The question Mr. Tisci has grappled with since his arrival at the house in 2018 has been how to sell Burberry when the British mood is itself so unpredictable and unclear.
His latest vision arrived on some of the world’s most famous models: Naomi Campbell, Irina Shayk, Karen Elson, Erin O’Connor, Bella Hadid and Mariacarla Boscono. They and the other models wore slick looks that explored the state of seaside dress — or undress — in a country where social class often translates to distinctive sartorial codes and with notoriously dismal summer weather.
Long oversize jeans, with jackets loosely tied around the waist in case the clouds rolled in, were paired with a sexy bodice or a diamanté string bikini and two matching bags strapped to the upper arms like pool floaties. (With global inflation on the brain, this idea was also seen at Moschino in Milan.) Slinky floor-length dresses in a variety of colors and prints came with large circular holes cut around the bikini line.
Of course, there were assorted reworkings of the signature gabardine trench and famous Burberry plaid (notably another string bikini and arm bags, teamed with a printed stretch bodysuit). There was also some black Victoriana cutaway leather bondage wear, printed soccer shirts and a series of silky looks, with delicate bra and knicker overlays, deliberately creased to reflect the wrinkles of clothes that are truly loved and lived in.
British beaches can be rather gloomy — so can Britain itself right now — but generally there is still a cheerful pluck and resilience to the bracing air.
“I wanted to express that spirit of togetherness and joy, that reality,” Mr. Tisci wrote in the notes.
Still, his words felt disconnected from the reality displayed. As the ominous swell of the orchestra swept the finale to the runway, this was a seaside visit that felt somber, almost mournful.