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.”
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion