Burberry’s Digital Misstep

By christinewatson / / Burberry has been making headlines this week after Prorsum director Christopher Bailey sent dozens of holographic women down the runway in Beijing along with just six live models on Wednesday afternoon. The holographs were nearly indistinguishable from the models, but they would occasionally catch audiences by surprise by colliding with one another, changing clothes in the blink of an eye, or dissolving into flurries of snow. Check it out: Footage of the show, which lasted just over four minutes and featured a soundtrack by Dusty Springfield, has been circulating on the internet ever since. Burberry gained a reputation for progressive — and effective — marketing following the “Art of the Trench” campaign two years ago, in which famous street fashion photographers, including Scott Schuman, documented the ways in which a classic trenchcoat could be styled and personalized. Fashion icon Tavi Gevinson praised the campaign for creating a strong personality for the brand, comparing it to couturier Comme des Garçons in its achievements. Wednesday’s show, however, has critics confused. Although the show went off without a hitch, drew attention to the brand, and wowed internet audiences, the high-tech presentation stood in contrast to the conservative clothing the brand is known for. The “Art of the Trench” campaign successfully elevated the brand’s sorority-girl reputation by emphasizing its enduring classical appeal. Wednesday’s show only served to make the office-appropriate apparel seem less progressive than ever and came across to many as a ploy for attention. Part of the reason critics have responded badly to the format, despite its aesthetic appeal, might be that the thought of runways full of holographs frightens them. Female consumers often feel that they’re being compared unfairly to women whose sizes and shapes are unachievable to them. Meanwhile, designers struggle each year to find younger, taller, and thinner models, and the same hundred women usually end up walking shows all over the world each season. How will consumers feel about models who literally couldn’t exist in real life? Perhaps the critics are wondering, as I am, whether the show was a brilliant commentary on the unrealistic nature of the fashion industry, as I’d hoped — or just a step in the wrong direction.