Pictured above: Burberry’s Fall 2008/09 ad campaign staring Sam Riley and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Christopher Bailey’s reign over the Burberry empire grows more majestic every season.
The iconic British brand has reported a whopping 26% increase in sales revenues the past quarter. In a down-turned economy, this is an improbable development for any company. For a label who in recent years proffered python trench coats for $10,000, it is a windfall, and a cautiously optimistic indicator for the high-end clothing retail community as a whole. The auspicious news is particularly welcome for Burberry, a brand who struggled for years to both recapture their patrician status and to restate their identity in the modern fashion marketplace. In 2001, under the helm of Christopher Bailey, the next generation of Burberry – Prorsum – was reborn. In its new era of commercial clout and landmark creative renaissance, the brand has since thrived. Burberry is again relevant and progressive. Britannia chic is back in a big way.
Though Bailey’s acclaimed Prorsum collections are largely to thank for the brand’s resurgent status in the critical arena and marketplace, he also runs the popular, more traditional Burberry London and Thomas Burberry lines, all of which have further benefited from his direction. Bailey’s success stems from his willingness to retain specifically British fashion references – military tailoring, metallic embellishments, and trenches galore – while evolving those visuals towards the harder, edgier appeal of music and street culture. He has an eye for cherry picking the most alluring bits of iconography in British history and presenting them within a counter-cultural framework. He affectionately labels his muse for this collision of ideals the “luxury warrior”.
Bailey received particular acclaim for his Tudor/Goth/Sir Gallahad inspired Fall 2007 collection, which featured the aforementioned python trenches and gauntlet gloves, epauletted silhouettes, black patent leather boots and accessories. His current Spring collection repeated the trick, while adding wonderfully bold hues, neoprene trenches, and lightweight ruched chiffon dresses in neutrals to the mix. Bailey has created a brave new paradigm: he has convinced everyone from Burberry spokesmodels Daisy Loewe and Agyness Deyn to Madison Ave to every young musician in the British Isles and beyond that late 2000s dressing should evoke the rock ‘n roll with the medieval.
For Burberry, taking the risk of overhauling its staid image has paid off in spades. According to the report, it is Bailey’s most idiosyncratic pieces that currently enjoy the healthiest demand. “The funkiest and the most over the top as possible, that’s what’s really selling … from the top of the pyramid to wellies,” Burberry CFO Stacey Cartwright said.
How refreshing it is to see retail reward revolution.