CHICAGO — Customers were eager to see Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey's first U.S. runway show here Tuesday night.
Burberry fans clad in their best little black dresses and designer heels gathered 30 minutes outside before the event, causing Nordstrom, the event's organizer, to open the doors early. Prior to the sold-out show, hosted by Vogue editor at large André Leon Talley and held at the Millennium Park Rooftop Terrace, the phones continued to ring as shoppers sought to buy tickets or call in favors for entry into the event featuring the Burberry Prorsum fall collection.
"We could have easily doubled the size," said Sarah Manley, Burberry senior vice president for global public relations and communications, noting the crowd of 360.
The event appeared to be a coup for all involved. Pete Nordstrom, Nordstrom president, and Angela Ahrendts, Burberry Group plc's chief executive officer, touted the companies' partnership.
"Our customers are very similar," said Ahrendts, noting that both are modern, classic, aspirational brands.
Burberry is one of Nordstrom's key lines. It is one of the few labels the Seattle-based retailer carries in all categories — women's, men's, children's and accessories, and Nordstrom is Burberry's largest U.S. wholesale customer.
"It's a very competitive marketplace," Nordstrom said. "That Christopher Bailey's first (U.S.) appearance is with Nordstrom, it does a lot. Not every design house is willing to do these things."
Bailey said he loved bringing his collection to receptive customers.
"Everyone was clapping (during the show)," Bailey said. "André told me 'Don't get used to it.'"
"We've done so many shows, but you really felt the energy here," he said.
Chicago seemed a natural destination for the first U.S. runway show given Burberry's penchant for outerwear. In fact, Nordstrom sold seven Burberry Prorsum coats after the show, including a blue taffeta trench, $2,295, and a khaki, short mottled-wool and cashmere trench with gold hardware, $3,795.
U.S. customers are attracted to "the very rich pieces like the technical outerwear and accessories,'' Bailey said. "They used to buy the classics. Now it's the opposite; they look for the special pieces."Bailey said he took inspiration from the brand's logo, the Burberry Prorsum knight, presenting a fall collection with a sleek, medieval, rocker edge complete with armor-beaded dresses, heavily studded handbags and quilted leather and black patent long gloves.
"I thought this is the way Burberry would do tough," the 36-year-old designer said after the event to benefit the Lookingglass Theatre Co.
Bailey also made an in-store appearance Wednesday at Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue, where he chatted with customers and signed the inside of some shoppers' Burberry coats and handbags.
On Thursday, he held trunk shows at Nordstrom San Francisco Centre and Nordstrom Bellevue Square in suburban Seattle.
Bailey's appearances coincide with Burberry's attempt to gain a stronger hold on the U.S. market.
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