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Comment: What will Riccardo Tisci bring to Burberry?

Graeme Moran

Riccardo Tisci’s appointment as Burberry’s new chief creative officer has sent the brand’s share price up over 5% but what does it mean in fashion stakes for Britain’s leading luxury brand?

Riccardo tisci, burberry chief creative officer   artwork katerina jebb 2018 copyright

Riccardo Tisci, Burberry chief creative officer

Over his successful 12-year tenure at LVMH-owned Givenchy, Tisci rejuvenated the brand and transformed it into one of the industry’s buzziest names.

The Italian designer quickly established a strong, influential style – darkly gothic with a fierce sensuality, strewn with religious and fetishist undertones that blended luxury high fashion with a casual, streetwear cool.

It is difficult to see how his hard edged and unapologetic style, influenced by Tisci’s Catholic upbringing in Italy, could fit with the rather genteel Burberry legacy left by Christopher Bailey and the brand’s “distinctly British attitude”.

The challenge will be balancing a convincing mix of Tisci’s highly successful signature aesthetic with the trench coats and checks of Burberry’s heritage.

At Givenchy, Tisci kicked off fashion’s love affair with elevated sportswear, mixing casual street styles and urban shapes with luxury fabrics. His punchily priced logoed bomber jackets, oversized printed T-shirts and relaxed sweatshirts were sell-out winners and set the path for current successes like Gucci’s printed T-shirts and Balenciaga’s branded hoodies.

At the time of the announcement, Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti (who also hired Tisci at Givenchy), highlighted the designer’s “skill in blending streetwear with high fashion [as] highly relevant to today’s luxury consumer”.

While Burberry has tried to tap into this new trend in the luxury market, particularly via its unexpected streetwear-inflected collaboration with designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, the reference by Gobbetti is interesting and could reveal Burberry’s plans to focus on Tisci bringing that youthful, streetwear-influenced relevance to its offer.

Givenchy spring 17

Givenchy spring 17

Givenchy spring 17

Gobbetti has also outlined plans to elevate Burberry’s brand positioning in the luxury sector. One way it intends to do this is via luxury leather goods and accessories, particularly in the important handbag market. While Burberry hasn’t quite managed to establish itself here, bags like Tisci’s Nightingale and Antigona styles were both winning designs at Givenchy, and a successful collaboration with Nike, which launched in 2014, is another example of Tisci’s diverse design expertise.

He is also an excellent eveningwear designer, bringing a modern yet fiery elegance to Givenchy. In the most public seal of approval, his dresses marched down high profile red carpets, dressing a diverse tribe including singers Beyonce, Rihanna and Madonna, artist Marina Abramović and actresses Rooney Mara, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. He also regularly kitted out Kim Kardashian, creating her wedding dress in 2014 for her marriage to Kayne West.

In contrast, while Bailey’s Burberry had its clan of British models and famous friends, it never matched the influence of Tisci’s Givenchy, particularly in eveningwear. Any brand, not least Burberry, should welcome this kind of exposure.

There’s little question over Tisci’s talent nor his successful history working alongside CEO Gobbetti, but the key will be in how he brings some much needed “cool” back to the Burberry brand and connects it with today’s luxury customer without alienating the brand’s loyal shoppers. It will be an interesting new chapter for both Burberry and Tisci.

Givenchy autumn 14

Givenchy autumn 14

Givenchy autumn 14

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