As it is announced that president and chief creative officer Christopher Bailey will leave Burberry next year, Drapers looks back at his influence, from design highlights to digital innovation.
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While trench coats and cashmere scarves remain key to its sales, Bailey’s design prowess – refined via stints at Donna Karen and Gucci under Tom Ford – helped transform Burberry into a £2bn luxury brand, and its fashion week shows into the jewel in London’s catwalk crown.
At his best, Bailey’s creative influence set trends from the catwalk to the high street thanks to a number of standout collections over his 16-year Burberry career, including the shearling aviators and military coats of autumn 10, studded leather biker jackets of spring 11, latex and heart prints of autumn 13, pretty pastels of spring 14, boho redux of autumn 15, through to the cool comeback of the Burberry check for autumn 17.
Bailey’s Burberry has pushed an omnichannel focus, putting experience at its heart years before ‘experiential’ became retail’s buzz word.
Its 27,000 sq ft Regent Street flagship, which opened in 2012, acts as a benchmark for modern stores.
Blurring the boundaries between the brand’s physical and digital worlds, it featured a 22ft video screen that embedded digital content at the heart of the store. Tills were swapped for iPads offering digital receipts, RFID tags brought digital changing room mirrors to life, and a cafe sought to expand the experience.
Burberry was early to the personalisation trend too, while its “click and chat” service in 2014 predated the current craze for chatbots.
Burberry regent street the store
Burberry is also heralded as one of the fashion industry’s digital pioneers, embracing new social media platforms ahead of the curve.
It was one of the first brands to live stream its catwalk shows, but Bailey’s digital innovation started earlier with the launch of Burberry’s own social platform Art of the Trench in 2009. It encouraged customers to upload and share images of themselves in their new purchases.
Since then, the brand has led the way, focusing on fashion week. It used Twitter to debut its spring 12 collection before its catwalk show. It was the first to test Twitter’s buy button, allowing customers to purchase products straight from the catwalk. It was also one of the first to utilise Instagram’s sponsored branded content, and was the first to shoot and publish an advertising campaign via Snapchat.
See now, buy now
Bailey shocked the industry in 2016 by shaking up the traditional catwalk calendar and realigning Burberry’s shows with its retail drops, kicking off with his autumn 16 “see now, buy now” collection. It was a bold and ballsy decision that shifted the industry and led several other brands, including Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford, to follow suit. The impact on sales has not proved revolutionary, but unlike Tom Ford and others, Burberry has stuck by Bailey’s decision.