Words by Michael McAtomney

Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative Officer and President of Burberry, has today announced his departure from the brand in 2018 after 17 years with the company. Bailey has been largely responsible for the transformation of the brand from a specialty brand steeped in British heritage yet plagued by the counterfeit market, to one of the largest players on the luxury market throughout the last decade.

The Royal College of Art graduate joined Burberry in 2001 after honing his craft at luxury players such as Donna Karan and Gucci. Since then, he has climbed the ranks of the brand moving from a Design Director role into that of Chief Creative Officer before being announced as Chief Executive Officer until July 2017 before taking on the newly formed role of President of the brand, with Marco Gobetti stepping into the role of CEO.

The skill of Bailey as a designer and innovative creative mind helped reshape and reposition the Burberry brand. Steeped in a history of the outdoors and exploration, the brand saw a downturn in profits and subsequently reputation throughout the early 2000s as the proliferation of counterfeit Burberry products and the trademark check pattern rose dramatically throughout Europe and the UK. The brand quickly became associated with football hooligans and unruly youth and was shunned by much of the luxury market. The rebuild of the brand has largely been attributed to the design acumen and forethought of Bailey, as he managed to rebuild the brand using its British heritage while leverage the use of technology and collaborations with industry influencers such as street style photographer Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist. Over the last five years, Bailey has helped to spearhead the brand to become a leader in digital technology, with in-store displays and snapchat playing a large part in developing an innovative omni-channel strategy, positioning Burberry as a brand of the future rather than of a bygone-era. This was exemplified to a greater extent when Bailey confirmed that Burberry would move away from the traditional fashion calendar to a ‘see now, buy now’ strategy in 2016, which has subsequently been followed by luxury names such as Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren in recent seasons.

While the company is yet to confirm who will take the creative helm in the post-Bailey era, there has been mention of Phoebe Philo as a potential replacement. While Philo currently remains in her successful role as Creative Director at LVMH’s Céline, there have been recent unconfirmed reports of LVMH interviewing replacements for Philo in the instance that her departure were to be imminent. Regardless of who is to be named Bailey’s eventual replacement, it is undeniable that they will be big shoes to fill.