A shark and mermaid love affair: surreal Burberry show kicks off London Fashion Week

Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council Caroline Rush speaks during an interview with Reuters, on the opening day of London Fashion Week 2020, in London

By Sarah Mills

LONDON (Reuters) - London Fashion Week kicked off on Thursday in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic with Britain's Burberry putting on a live virtual display of its latest collection which broke with the traditional catwalk show.

Burberry's Riccardo Tisci presented his spring-summer 2021 collection "In Bloom" on video streaming service Twitch, a first for the British fashion house that like others has had to adapt its runway show in the time of COVID-19.

While there were plenty of models gathered to showcase the collection, rather than featuring a catwalk, the surreal show, produced with artist Anne Imhof, was set in a circle in a wooded location.

"It began with a thought of British summertime; embracing the elements with a trenchcoat on the beach mixing with the sand and the water," Tisci, who joined Burberry as chief creative officer in 2018, said in a statement.

"I envisioned the people of this space, like the lighthousekeeper, and a love affair between a mermaid and a shark, set against the ocean, then brought to land," he added, saying the circle represented regrowth, renewal and life.

The collection featured trenchcoats, fisherman-inspired bib-front trousers and sheer-chiffon trousers detailed with printed shorts.

Like other fashion houses, Burberry has seen a severe impact from COVID-19, with sales in its first quarter down 45%.

The company has said there will be no quick recovery, despite trading returning to pre-COVID-19 levels in mainland China in June.

Burberry's was one of only four actual shows taking place at fashion week, and Caroline Rush, the chief executive of the British Fashion Council, said designers were using the limits imposed by COVID-19 to think of alternative ways to show off their work.

In Milan next week, many major brands will also opt for virtual or closed-door shows, accepting the loss of the live experience as the cost of keeping buyers and staff safe, although some brands will have live events.

(Writing by Michael Holden; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)