Burberry may be leading the fashion charge in social media, with one million–plus Facebook fans, 3-D live-streaming of the autumn Prorsum collection and a slick Web site where brand lovers can talk trenchcoats 24/7, but it’s when Christopher Bailey heads home to Yorkshire, England, that he realizes Burberry’s future customers are a step ahead: “My 13-year-old nephew, Matthew, is gaming live with people around the world, people he knows by name and refers to as ‘my mates’—it’s normal for him,” he says.
“That generation is global—it’s a generation that lives online,” continues the 38-year-old Bailey, chief creative officer at Burberry and a driving force—along with chief executive officer Angela Ahrendts—behind Burberry’s digital crusade. “I didn’t grow up like that, but I am interested in that world, and excited by it.” The designer is a self-confessed gadget fanatic whose stash of iPhone apps includes a British Airways automatic check-in, cooking tips from Jamie Oliver, Sky News alerts and a direct line to Christie’s, where he can bid for his favorite 17th-century furniture, which is “rustic—not posh,” he laughs.
It’s a drizzly spring morning, and Bailey is sitting at the glass conference table in his corner office at Burberry’s London headquarters overlooking the Thames. Over a tall glass of Berocca —the orange fizzy vitamin drink—he’s energetically discussing the Web; his latest runway show, which was inspired by the aviator jacket and filled with soft-edged military looks, and the sometimes-scary sensation of designing for a company listed in the FTSE 100, the index of most highly valued firms on London’s stock exchange. Bailey says live-streaming the collections is changing his approach to work—not just from a technical point of view, but from a creative one.
“Our shows were never crazy flamboyant—that’s not who we are—but I do have to be conscious of how a nonfashion person will be perceiving the company,” he says. “You can’t let it affect your vision or point of view, but it’s good to be conscious of it. The shows are no longer just for a very savvy, sophisticated audience. It blows my mind to think that kids in the middle of a far-flung village in India are watching it—which means we have to be incredibly consistent, specific and focused.”
The frantic online networking that goes on before and after the live-streaming also is having an impact, says the designer. Much has been made in the media of the potential perils of social networking sites for hyper-controlled, image-conscious luxury brands. Burberry is having none of it: “People think we are editing the live comments on our Facebook page, but we’re not, and about 99 percent of the response [to the show] was positive. Viewers don’t have a cynical reaction, and they’re not jaded. They want to be there. It brings us back to the reality of what we are doing—we want people to enjoy wearing the clothes,” says Bailey, adding that the trade remains his core audience. “But we would be naïve and blind to talk only to them.”
The moment the fall show ended, Burberry offered viewers the option to click and buy all the bags and about 90 percent of the outerwear. “People don’t care what season it is, and they don’t want to wait four months to buy it. They want it now,” says Bailey, declining to specify how much Burberry took in sales, postshow.
The Prorsum presentation was a blissful blend of hard and soft: Shearling aviator jackets came in classic chocolate leather—and some were even worn inside out to reveal an expanse of creamy fur. Even the classic Burberry trench took flight with aviator details worked onto the top half.
Bailey recalls discovering a stash of aviator jackets in the Burberry archive, “and a lightbulb went off in my head. I thought, It’s just like the trench—it’s great for guys and for girls, it’s protective and it’s got a lot of attitude,” he says, adding the fall collection was an exploration of “the structure and ceremony of uniforms,” which can be decorative but also austere. To wit, there were sharply tailored frock coats, peacoats, peplum riding jackets—and gold buttons and zippers galore. Bailey tempered his masculine silhouettes with soft edges in the form of sheepskin patchwork coats, dresses in stonewashed satin or velvet and sensual knits that looked as if they were fashioned from fluttery bandages.
Marigay McKee, fashion and beauty director at Harrods, which carries the Burberry men’s and women’s collections, said the store is expanding its Prorsum space for fall. “Christopher has an eye for detail that’s second to none, and the Burberry trench is still a dream investment for our customers, a classic that doesn’t date. He’s keeping the collection and the brand relevant,” she says.
And while Bailey’s collections may receive their fair share of accolades, the designer knows he’s sitting in one of the hottest seats in fashion right now. In September, Burberry was drafted into the FTSE 100 and, with a market capitalization of 3.22 billion pounds, or $4.82 billion at current exchange, and revenue upward of 1.2 billion pounds, or $1.8 billion, it remains the only fashion and luxury goods brand in Britain’s ultraexclusive club. “Sometimes Angela and I look at each other and say we never imagined all of this would happen,” he says. “It can spook you, but you just try to remain focused on your work.”
But he concedes he’s more proud than spooked. “I love this company. It’s a little jewel. It’s been around for 154 years, and at the moment, I’m holding the key—and I’m privileged to be doing so.”
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews