LONDON — Burberry is putting America first, unveiling Riccardo Tisci’s debut collection, Kingdom, exclusively at Barneys New York and the brand’s refurbished Manhattan stores on Wednesday before a global rollout later this month.
Marco Gobbetti, Burberry’s chief executive officer, has been wasting no time executing a strategy he laid out in late 2017, promising to sharpen the wholesale portfolio in the U.S. — the company’s largest single market — as he aims to fix the brand firmly in the luxury space.
Pieces from Tisci’s wide-ranging spring 2019 collection, where the designer set out to create a wardrobe “for a mother and a daughter and a father and a son,” will be available at Burberry’s 57th Street flagship and the Spring Street boutique from Wednesday.
Both stores will have been refurbished for the launch to resemble the Regent Street and Bond Street units in London, with a minimalist, art gallery-like feel and a wash of beige. Tisci told WWD last month that he wants Burberry to own the color.
The brand has also done a deal with Barneys, which will be the first U.S. retailer to carry pieces from the collection at its Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills stores from that date.
“Changing the way our customers experience Burberry is a key part of our strategy to transform the brand, and evolving our presence in the U.S. is critical to achieving this,” Gobbetti said.
“We want to create a consistent luxury experience across each and every one of our consumer touch points that reflects, and amplifies, Burberry’s new creative vision. Much of this work is now complete in the U.S. and our wholesale partners have been incredibly supportive,” he added.
Burberry’s other key U.S. wholesale accounts include Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. The brand has 71 mainline stores, six concessions and 17 outlets in the region.
February is a big month for Burberry on many fronts, including retail, wholesale, product and merchandising. Although Tisci created a capsule collection with Vivienne Westwood last year and has been selling branded streetwear through monthly B Series drops, the Burberry stores have been filled until now with product designed by his predecessor, Christopher Bailey, and the in-house team.
Barneys — and the two Burberry stores — will be the first stores to carry pieces from Tisci’s runway and commercial collections.
Barneys’ Madison Avenue store will feature purpose-built installations for accessories on the main floor, men’s on the third floor and women’s ready-to-wear on the sixth floor, inspired by the Regent and Bond Street stores in London. The store will also carry the new Burberry branding, which Tisci unveiled last summer. Beverly Hills will have a similar setup, and Burberry will take over the windows in both places.
In the Madison Avenue windows, there are nods to Burberry’s London flagship on Regent Street, including pistachio curtains. Created in collaboration the Burberry design team, the sixth floor space incorporates the new Burberry branding through a monolithic installation that showcases the collection. The installation also nods to the Shakespearean references made by Tisci in his spring 2019 collection. Trench-inspired hues also feature throughout the in-store installations and range from stone to honey, with accents of red. Barneys said it plans to incorporate the creative elements of the collaboration throughout its stores nationwide.
Jay Bell, executive vice president, general merchandise manager, women’s, Barneys New York, said the store has long been a supporter of Tisci. “We have collaborated on some groundbreaking partnerships in the past, and we were extremely excited when we found out he was joining Burberry. Burberry is an iconic brand, and Riccardo has interpreted its DNA through his visionary lens, establishing a new chapter for the house. The collection appealed to us with its clear and clever concepts, like the new monogram logo, and the twist on the classic check as stripes. We are excited to launch the collection exclusively and to introduce Barneys customers to this new era of Burberry,” he said.
The Barneys tie-up points to Burberry’s overarching wholesale strategy in the U.S. “From the bold window designs to the surprising in-store installations, what we have created in close collaboration with such an influential partner is a great example of our ambitions in the important wholesale channel,” Gobbetti said.
The ceo said the refreshed stand-alone stores are also a big part of Burberry’s strategy in the U.S., and elsewhere: “The success of our mainline stores is central to our ambitions for growth. Re-energizing these spaces will bring the new Burberry to life and this is where we will make our largest investment over the coming years,” he said.
The 57th Street flagship and Spring Street boutique in New York will be among Burberry’s first stores globally to be refurbished in time for New York Fashion Week, Gobbetti said, adding that it is “enormously exciting to see our new creative vision and aesthetic come to life.”
The U.S. has always been a big part of Gobbetti’s strategy, which he laid out in November 2017 during a presentation to financial analysts.
At the time, Gobbetti said he was looking to “rationalize” non-luxury wholesale and retail doors, a distribution strategy that former ceo Angela Ahrendts had pushed before American shopping mall and department store numbers began to shrink, before luxury goods dominated the marketplace and before discounting in America turned toxic.
Even before Gobbetti arrived as ceo in 2017, Burberry had been looking to clean up its wholesale portfolio and steer clear of the discounting and seasonal promotions that some department stores were pushing.
When he arrived, Gobbetti’s particular emphasis was on slimming down wholesale accounts in the U.S. first. Later, he planned to turn his attention to Europe, the Middle East and Africa regions.
“We must have a very strong position in the U.S., but there are points of sale that may not be necessarily strategic going forward. At the same time, there are points of sale where we have the capacity to improve our presence, ones that are strategic for us,” said Gobbetti at the time, after making multiple trips to the U.S. early in his Burberry tenure.
“It’s really about building wholesale. Most of the American partners we have worked with for a long time; we know their distribution, we have the product, we have the brand. They are professionals, they know exactly what we expect and they are very keen on Burberry. I’m very much in favor of wholesale, it’s an excellent way to do business in areas where you cannot go with your retail,” he added then.
Indeed, one of Gobbetti’s key strengths is building relationships with wholesale partners: Years ago, when Tisci arrived at the creative helm of Givenchy, Gobbetti, who was then ceo of the brand, managed to get the collection into an array of top stores globally.
The rationalization strategy is off to a solid start. As reported, during the third quarter Burberry invited wholesale customers to place orders for Tisci’s fall 2019 pre-collection, which will arrive in stores in May. In the U.S., orders per door doubled on a like-for-like basis, and in the EMEIA region, orders showed “a significant increase,” the company said.
It’s clear the clients who’ve remained in the Burberry portfolio are key.
Burberry and Barneys have long done business together, and this most recent tie-up is the latest in a series.
In 2016, Barneys unveiled the Burberry x Barneys New York exclusive collection of women’s wear, men’s wear and accessories. Barneys’ 60th Street windows on the corner of Madison Avenue were devoted to the collaboration and there was also a related email and digital marketing campaign.
“We love the idea of doing special projects and one-off collaborations like this and we are looking forward to doing more of them,” said Daniella Vitale, who is now ceo of Barneys, at the time. “Our customer craves these unique opportunities and partnerships.”
In 2015, Burberry had created a capsule collection — Burberry XO Barneys New York — exclusively for the retailer that was “inspired by the relaxed spirit” of the brand’s high-end men’s wear collection.
There’s even a former Barneys executive at Burberry — Judy Collinson, who joined the British brand in 2017 as chief merchandising officer. She was formerly vice president, general merchandising manager, women’s at Barneys, where she worked for 22 years before taking up executive positions at Anthropologie, and Christian Dior Inc.
Barneys has also collaborated with a variety of other brands: Last month, the store launched an exclusive Giorgio Armani men’s and women’s capsule collection at its Madison Avenue flagship and on barneys.com, aimed at marking a long and special relationship with the Italian designer that dates back to the mid-Seventies.
It isn’t the only U.S. retailer to capitalize on brand exclusives, which create buzz and help stores to highlight their different points of view and takes on the collections.
In January, Saks secured the early retail exclusive for the debut men’s collection of Kim Jones. The collection has already launched at Dior’s stores, including the eight in the U.S. that carry men’s wear. Saks will be carrying the full collection of men’s wear, sneakers and accessories embellished with the brand’s signature bee logo that has been reimagined by street artist Kaws.
The Saks partnership was a Dior encore: In 2017, the store turned over much of its real estate to Dior to launch Maria Grazia Chiuri’s inaugural collection for the brand.