LONDON, Sept 17 (Reuters) - With metallic trimmings and corset-like belts, Burberry's trademark trench coats took centre-stage at the brand's catwalk relaunch under new designer Riccardo Tisci on Monday as it looks to lift sales with a move upmarket.
The ex-Givenchy star evoked the label's British heritage, with pussybow blouses and pleated skirts setting the tone for a collection that privileged sleek, tailored looks and showcased items like new handbags, an area Burberry wants to boost.
Luxury brands are jostling to carve out a following among younger shoppers always on the look-out for eye-catching new designs, at a time when strong demand from Chinese consumers is boosting revenues across the industry.
Faced with more sluggish sales than rivals like Kering's Gucci or LVMH's Louis Vuitton, Chief Executive Marco Gobbetti is repositioning the 162-year old brand firmly in the luxury segment, where profit margins are higher and growth is more consistent.
Tisci, who took over from Burberry's longstanding designer Christopher Bailey this year, brought some of the darker, sexy styles he is known for to the British brand with slinky black evening gowns and sharp men's suits - paraded down the runway in London by models with umbrellas slung over their backs.
The 44-year-old Italian designer referenced Burberry's famed red, black and camel check in jacket linings. Trench coats came with twists, including one lined with gold hoops worn by celebrity model Kendall Jenner.
Elsewhere looks mixed mini-dresses and sportier outfits, including slouchy shorts, at a time when luxury casualwear is proving a hit for many brands.
Tisci had already been generating a buzz in recent months by introducing a new sans-serif logo by British graphic designer Peter Saville, a "TB" monogram and a collaboration with Vivienne Westwood, one of his British design heroes. The TB stands for company founder Thomas Burberry.
The changes have not gone unnoticed by investors, with Burberry's shares up 38 percent since his appointment was announced in March.
But analysts have said that Burberry is still at the early stages of its turnaround - like-for-like sales in its last quarter were up 3 percent against double-digit growth for the sector - and the task facing CEO Gobbetti is not an easy one.
The immediate reaction to Tisci's debut from fans at its Central London flagship store, however, was enthusiastic.
Some customers were already snapping up special edition items released to coincide with the show, including nylon trench coats and bomber jackets for 990 pounds ($1,300).
Izzat Alhadjri, 27, on holiday from Malaysia and set to buy shoes and branded hoodies, said the collection was "refreshing".
"It's still the essence of Burberry, but it looks a bit edgier ... it was getting boring," he said.
"It's respectful of the brand and of its colours, no-one wants to see that changed."
$1 = 0.7602 pound Reporting by Sarah White and Paul Sandle; Editing by Tom Brown