Bébhinn Campbell reflects on Christopher Bailey’s departure from Burberry after 17 years.
The trench coat is to Burberry what handbags are to Chanel. The signature check-print lining has captured the hearts of fashion devotees since its debut in 1912. Burberry’s significance extends further than its most celebrated piece, which today is just one contribution to its enduring legacy as the epitome of luxury British fashion. Now, the label must brace itself for the entry into a new era with the departure of CEO and creative heart of the company, Christopher Bailey.
The turn of the century marked a new chapter for Burberry. In 2001 Bailey entered the scene as creative director, a decision that would raise Burberry to a global scale. Some might wince at the idea of taking the classic trench coat and reimagining it in vinyl, but Bailey did just that in 2004 with a view to bring Burberry into the 21st century. Three years later, he sent a crocodile-effect version down the Autumn/Winter catwalk. 2010 saw the silhouette double in size, padded out with shearling and faux fur.
“Using the rising obsession with social media to his advantage, Bailey revolutionized the relationship between fashion and the internet.”
Bailey successfully steered the company towards a more current direction. Thinking beyond just designs, he consistently embraced the technological advances of the past decade. In 2008 the label’s catwalk shows were streamed live for the first time, an idea that inspired countless designers to later follow suit. Using the rising obsession with social media to his advantage, Bailey revolutionized the relationship between fashion and the Internet with his Twitter “click-to-buy” innovation.
The designer came to Burberry with not just a fresh perspective, but also a myriad of celebrities. Credited with linking the some of the world’s best-loved stars to the Burberry name, he joined forces with the likes of Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne to produce numerous iconic campaigns. In 2014, he achieved the impossible by making the poncho cool again. The former fashion no-no became an automatic must-have after being seen on Victoria Beckham and Sarah Jessica Parker.
What happens next for Burberry? Former CEO of Céline, Marco Gobbetti, takes over the reins. Bailey will be staying on as president until March 2018. After a few difficult years, he is confident that Burberry will continue to grow and progress in its leading role in British fashion. Gobbetti has announced plans to further embed Burberry within the luxury market. He envisions the brand moving upwards still, reaching heights occupied by labels like Gucci and Dior.
It can only be imagined what exciting variations of the Burberry trench coat lie ahead.