The news broke yesterday that Christopher Bailey, the President and Chief Creative Officer of Burberry, is to leave the brand after 17 years at the helm. Bailey will remain in his post until March 31, 2018. The transition period set after Bailey’s departure is going to last until December 2018, when he will step down from the board.
Chief Executive Officer of Burberry Marco Gobbetti commented on the leadership change in a statement:
“Burberry has undergone an incredible transformation since 2001 and Christopher has been instrumental to the company’s success in that period. While I am sad not to have the opportunity to partner with him for longer, the legacy he leaves and the exceptional talent we have at Burberry give me enormous confidence in our future. We have a clear vision for the next chapter to accelerate the growth and success of the Burberry brand and I am excited about the opportunity ahead for our teams, our partners and our shareholders.”
It was in 2001 when Rose Marie Bravo, an American businesswoman, introduced Bailey to Burberry and Burberry to Bailey. We remember that period of Burberry’s history very clearly – the famous check pattern was then adopted first by the British and later by international ‘chavs’ (a derogatory term for a subset of the working class), who wore fake Burberry trenches, caps, and scarfs and damaged Burberry’s reputation of a premium brand. Upon Bravo’s exit in 2006, she named Angela Ahrendts, who Bailey knew from his time at Donna Karan.
‘Over the next eight years, Ahrendts and Bailey proved a power duo. Together they cleaned up the business, buying back licences and transforming Burberry into a credible luxury brand’ – Business of Fashion.
When the brand’s reputation was restored, Bailey started to make bold and brave moves to bring it to a new level of greatness where Burberry has never been before. By 2011 the company was generating £1.5 billion in revenue — a 27% increase from the previous year. Bailey’s innovative marketing techniques helped the brand to gain the status of the most tech savvy and digitally-proactive brand out there. Burberry community grew and the brand started to blur the line between traditional brick and mortar and online.
Streaming the shows online and in-store, presenting the collections to the customers on the same day of the show, introducing ‘see-now-buy-now’ strategy, changing the show location, conducting exhibitions, presentations and workshops – today Burberry is known for all this. But this is of course not everything that Christopher put his hand on. Burberry is staying on the forefront of fashion industry by recruiting rookie models, collaborating with young and emerging talent for photography, show production, campaigns and design, establishing Burberry Acoustic…I can go on and on and on!…
‘This added a new layer of excitement and energy to the business, which became a rival for fashion brands in France and Italy, even if they sniffed that Burberry wasn’t a real luxury brand’ – Business of Fashion.
Bailey himself has also commented on the change in his career:
“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. I do truly believe, however, that Burberry’s best days are still ahead and that the company will go from strength to strength with the strategy we have developed and the exceptional talent we have in place led by Marco. 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.”
There is huge global potential for Burberry, a brand that is today the definition of British luxury.
‘Unlike, say, Dior and Chanel, which have to share the idea of Parisian couture, or the many luxury brands in Milan that have to share the idea of “Made in Italy”, there is only one global British luxury brand at the scale of these continental competitors, and that is Burberry’ – Business of Fashion.
Although we at Backstage Tales are sad to see Christopher leave, we are excited for the new chapter for Burberry. Whoever the successor will be, he/she must bring the new focus to the creative side of the business and keep the marketing game as strong as it is if not stronger. One is clear – Bailey’s successor will have big shoes to fill.
Text: Irina Gorskaia
Images: Burberry, Drapers