As the U.K.’s largest and most famous luxury fashion house, Burberry’s biannual London Fashion Week show is considered a highlight each season. But expectations were running especially high ahead of Monday evening‘s (Sept. 19) collection show. That’s because, for the first in the British fashion house’s 160-year history, every ensemble was made available for purchase online and in flagship stores around the world immediately after its debut on the catwalk — a move that, should it prove a success at the cash register, could completely transform the way fashion has been shown and sold since the birth of ready-to-wear.
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The industry — plus some millions of fans tuning in to the live stream across the globe (below) — was watching, and Burberry pulled out all of the stops for the occasion, constructing a temporary two-story space in London’s Soho neighborhood, the bottom floor of which was occupied by a 21-piece orchestra, five vocalists and a pianist. For many consecutive seasons now, Burberry has invited British music artists including Alison Moyet and Tom Odell to perform at its shows, but on Monday it treated guests to an entirely original score composed and conducted by Ilan Eshkeri of Still Alice and Stardust fame.
The composition — made of three original songs, plus a fourth that combined elements of the first three — was spellbinding, lending an emotional vibrancy and powerful cinematic quality that transformed what was essentially a traditional runway show into something completely magical. Like the collection itself, the score was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, a prescient work of magical realism that follows a character’s transformation from a young page boy who captures the withering affections of Queen Elizabeth I and ends as a woman living in 1920s England.
“I was inspired entirely by [Burberry Chief Executive and Chief Creative Officer] Christopher [Bailey]’s vision, which was to make something that came from history and to make it contemporary,” Eshkeri told Billboard following the show, explaining that he looked to Renaissance and Baroque styles and gave them a contemporary twist, incorporating Woolf’s words in the lyrics throughout. “That’s what I hope I achieved, something that felt contemporary but also felt rooted in the classical.”
One might think such a work would take four or six months to produce — but Eshkeri had less than one. “We had to work extremely fast,” Eshkeri conceded, noting that changes to the score were still being made the morning before the show. “But I love that kind of energy. You find an idea and you say ‘That works,’ and you go at it with courage and conviction.”
Eshkeri has worked with Burberry before, by helping Odell arrange the music for his Burberry shows. “We’ve actually been looking to work together for quite a long time, and finally we found the right moment,” he said with genuine enthusiasm. “To be honest, I’m so glad and so proud that I could be part of this show, because this is such a significant moment not just for Burberry, but for the fashion world. To be part of that and to express some of that with music, that’s a real privilege.”
Like the collection itself, the soundtrack has been made available for purchase in select countries on iTunes and for streaming through the Burberry Apple Connect page on Apple Music.