It takes a light — and very steady — hand to design for a fashion and luxury house with annual sales of more than $1.9 billion, especially when the financial markets are watching — and commenting on — your every move. And Christopher Bailey, 38, has been pulling off his increasingly demanding job of chief creative officer with aplomb. Not only has he been turning out stylish, commercially successful collections since joining Burberry in 2001, but he’s been pushing the company — with gusto — into the Internet age. He happily takes time out from his studio work to face the cameras and broadcast a chirpy message to Burberry’s Facebook fans about the latest show or ad campaign, is constantly seeking ways to keep the brand’s artofthetrench.com site fresh and gets a thrill from watching his runways shows streamed live around the world. “There is a whole other community out there following Burberry — and I find that inspiring and quite humbling,” he says.
As for his design philosophy, he says fashion is “more about an attitude than anything else.”
“I want [my customer] to look effortless, confident. I want her to enjoy fashion,” he says. “Hopefully, with these collections, she’s able to play on the parts of her body she feels good about. I want to make collections that feel accessible, approachable — and never intimidating.”
Together with chief executive officer Angela Ahrendts, who has helped transform Burberry into a commercial behemoth with a state-of-the art supply chain and delivery system, and multiple product categories ranging from fashion to footwear to jewelry and color cosmetics, Bailey has succeeded where so many other brands have failed, transforming a dusty heritage label into a profitable brand — and keeping it relevant to customers. Last fall, Burberry was inducted into the FTSE 100 ranking of top-performing companies on the London Stock Exchange, and Bailey admitted it was a strange experience. “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.”
He clearly relishes his role.
“I love this company,” he says. “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.”