Christopher Bailey unveiled his final collection for Burberry at the recent London Fashion Week – a turning point for the British luxury brand which gained a global reputation under the designer’s tenure.
After 17 years, Bailey said farewell with a final overhaul of the fashion house’s signature beige, black and red check pattern.
Drawing inspiration from the internationally recognised gay pride flag, a new rainbow check featured heavily in London as the 46-year-old Bailey dedicated his show to gay rights campaigns and models.
“There has never been a more important time to say that in our diversity lies our strength, and our creativity,” said Bailey, who was the first openly gay head of a company on London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index when he was named chief executive in 2014.
The appointment saw him replace Angela Ahrendts, who moved to Apple, and came a decade after Bailey joined Burberry as creative director.
He has since propelled Burberry into the 21st century, incorporating new technologies such as social media into his shows.
Twice named Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards, he has also combined men’s and women’s collections and adopted the “see now, buy now” model becoming popular among high-end fashion brands.
He has also attracted some of the world’s most famous muses, including Kate Moss, Emma Watson and Cara Delevingne.
An ‘Incredible’ Designer
His last runway for Burberry is a testament to years spent experimenting with different colour palettes and materials, during which he reinvented Burberry’s signature trench coat with a touch of lace.
“Under his watch, a company formerly known as little more than an unexciting British producer of raincoats and checked scarves has exploded into the vast empire it is today,” said British Vogue.
The designer, who trained at London’s prestigious Royal College of Art, was described as “incredible” and “super smart” by Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council.
“Christopher has played a significant role in the British fashion industry, putting innovation at the heart of Burberry and ensuring that it is an exciting, relevant, forward-thinking global fashion brand,” she said in a statement to AFP.
But Bailey’s appointment as chief executive at age 42 raised some eyebrows because of his lack of experience running a company of such stature.
He held on to the dual role for just three years, until Marco Gobbetti, former chief executive of French luxury brand Celine, was brought in to take over the business side.
Bailey will formally step down from his two roles on March 31 but will work with Burberry on the transition until the end of this year. A replacement to fill the creative post held by Bailey, who previously worked for Donna Karan and Gucci, is yet to be announced.
Rumours on the fashion circuit put British designer Phoebe Philo, who recently left Celine, in pole position.