Burberry has announced that Christopher Bailey, president and chief creative director of the company, will leave in March 2018. Previously holding the dual position of CEO and creative director, it’s predicted that the company will have a seamless transition, as Bailey will continue to aid chief executive officer, Marco Gobbetti, until the end of the year. On the news Gobbetti announced that;
‘Burberry has undergone an incredible transformation since 2001 and Christopher has been instrumental to the company’s success in that period.’
Bailey has been with the brand a long time, especially as changes within the fashion industry occur frequently. Bailey joined burberry back in 2001 in the position of design director. Previously working with Donna Karan, Tom Ford and Gucci. He was also named British Designer of the year in 2009. After news of Christopher Bailey leaving broke, he stated that;
‘It has been the great privilege of my working life to be at Burberry, working alongside and learning from such an extraordinary group of people over the last 17 years. Burberry encapsulates so much of what is great about Britain. As an organisation, it is creative, innovative and outward looking. It celebrates diversity and challenges received wisdoms. It is over 160 years old, but it has a young spirit.’
Burberry, known for its signature checkered print of camel, ivory, red and black, has been extremely popular in the past two decades. Its popularity can be attributed to Bailey’s key decisions in advertising. Bailey previously hired extremely influential models to not only advertise the clothing on the runway and in magazines, but also showcase Burberrys clothing in their everyday life. At the height of her popularity, Kate Moss was hired to model their clothing in 1999 and continues to model for them today. Cara Delevingne is a firm favourite for Burberry, being seen in numerous campaigns. Other influential stars that have worked for the brand include Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn, Emma Watson and even Romeo Beckham.
Burberry latest campaign features Cara Delevingne and Matt Smith in an 80’s themed video.
Bailey is said to have been an instigating force in the transformation of Burberry into the luxury brand we see today. Leaving behind him the legacy of the Burberry trench coat, an iconic piece for the brand, but also the monogrammed cape. Bailey brought the trench coat back to the forefront of fashion. The original trench coat was designed by Thomas Burberry in 1912 for the soldiers in world war one. The design and look of the coat hasn’t changed much since its inception. It has become a style staple in many wardrobes. Burberry was also the first to create the material, gabardine, that is used in the production of the trench coats. The material is lightweight and waterproof but most importantly breathable. Now the trench coat can be found in a variety of colors, and Cara Delevingne wore a metallic version in 2012.
Another recognisable piece from Bailey’s time at Burberry is the monogrammed poncho/cape. Cara Delevingne walked down the runway in the cape for Burberry’s show of ‘The Bloomsbury Girls’ Autumn/Winter 2014. After celebrities such as Olivia Palermo, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alexa Chung, Sienna Miller and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley were all spotted sporting the garment adorned with their initials. James Corden even closed the Burberry show in 2015.
Bailey also introduced the concept of ‘See Now/Buy Now’ in September 2016. Instead of holding four shows a year, they now only hold two. He merged the collection into one ‘seasonless’ show, named ‘The February Show’. This allowed the collection to be immediately available to purchase after the runway show. Previously, the runway was used to showcase the collection and it was then later decided what pieces would be put into production. It usually takes six months after a show before the pieces are available to buy, hence why runway collections are held six months in advance of the season. It is also an attempt to stop fast fashion brands being able to recreate the looks and key ideas shown on the runway. Although many european designers do not agree with this action, it seemed to be working for Burberry with a boost to their digital reach and engagement.
Bailey also moved towards merging the men and women’s fashion shows in their ‘September Show’ 2016. All the clothing was labeled genderless and influenced by Virginia Woolf’s novel, ‘Orlando’. This change in direction took place at the same time as ‘See now/Buy Now’.
In 2009 they became the first brand to live stream a fashion show online. Burberry was the first brand to embrace social media, snapchat in particular. They snapchatted their runway show in 2015. In 2011, the brand posted the looks of their show on twitter before they hit the runway.
Bailey was also involved in the creation of ‘The Burberry Foundation’ established in 2008. It invests in selected charities that help young people through creative means. Bailey also attempted to incorporate music and fashion. In 2013, at the end of the Autumn/winter fashion show, Tom Odell performed live at the event. Other stars who’ve sang at his catwalk shows include Paloma Faith and George Barnett. Bailey also went on to set up Burberry Acoustic in 2010, an effort that aims to help promote British music acts.
After the announcement of Bailey’s departure shares in Burberry dropped 2%. No one has yet been officially named to replace Christopher Bailey, although speculation is surrounding three people in particular: Phoebe Philo, Sarah Burton and Clare Waight Keller. Phoebe Philo is currently Céline’s creative director, and rumours have been circling that Philo is set to leave the brand. Céline have denied such rumours. They have not denied, however, that they are interviewing candidates for her position. Sarah Burton is the creative director for Alexander McQueen, while Clare Waight Keller is Givenchy’s newly appointed creative director, only taking over the position in May 2017. Christopher Bailey has not yet announced what his future plans are, although he did note that;
‘I am excited to pursue new creative projects but remain fully committed to the future success of this magnificent brand and to ensuring a smooth transition.’