By  on November 17, 2004

Rose Marie Bravo, chief executive officer of Burberry plc, took over a dusty traditional British fashion house in 1997 that was generating $460 million in sales and transformed it into a $1.2 billion global luxury brand.

Working 14- to 16-hour days, she and her team successfully reinvigorated the 150-year-old company by trimming and revamping some licenses; adding a new collection called Prorsum; buying back the license in Spain and renegotiating the brand’s deal in Japan; opening flagships, and creating innovative advertising campaigns. In July 2002, Burberry completed an initial public offering.

With its sharp focus on product, Burberry expanded categories such as fragrances, handbags, children’s wear, watches and men’s wear. In all, Bravo achieved a “miraculous turnaround,” which in industry jargon has come to be called “doing a Burberry.” Her previous experience had been as president of Saks Fifth Avenue for five years, and before that, chairman and ceo of I. Magnin for five years.

Here, Bravo chats with WWD editor James Fallon.

WWD: I guess the easy question to start with is why Burberry? What attracted you?

RMB: I was wooed by two gentlemen, Victor Barnett and David Wolfson, and their passion for the concept of reinvigorating Burberry. And remember, I knew it from my Macy’s and Saks days as this really very masculine raincoat company. And I have to say, when they first suggested it, I thought it was just crazy. But the more I got into it and the more I really understood what they were thinking about, I got lured into it, shall we say.

WWD: Did you hesitate about moving from New York to London, or Hackney [where Burberry was then headquartered]?

RMB: I was excited. I always wanted to live in Europe. I thought it would be fun, and my husband was for it. He figured it would improve his golf scores. So we embarked on an adventure.

WWD: Were you heartened with what you found when you dug into the company or were you depressed? Did they hide the secrets in the cupboard?

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