Burberry’s Christopher Bailey is the man who put London Fashion Week back on the map. He talks to Stylist about re-energising the quintessentially British brand.
Last season’s Prorsum show in Kensington Gardens saw magical snow falling on the catwalk as models descended in rain capes and bakerboy caps; their autumn/winter 2009 campaign famously gave young actress Emma Watson her break into the fashion industry and this year their Beijing fashion show had life-like 4D hologram models parading up and down in a futuristic fashion. It is an industry unspoken truth that the Burberry show is the highlight of London Fashion Week and there’s no denying that the man responsible – Christopher Bailey – is the brand’s crucial component. While the classic trench and the chequered print that the brand is synonymous with still feature, Bailey has managed to fuse together Burberry’s 155-year aesthetic with contemporary accents (such as leather contrasting sleeves and metallic sheen), making key pieces that season after season become the fashion editor’s must-haves.
As he celebrates his 10th year at the helm of the iconic brand, the innovator (who leads a very private life and rarely does any interviews) reminisces on the year he took over and gives us insight into what we can expect next.
When Burberry came back to London in 2009, the shows appeared to become must-attend once more – how do you feel about putting the British capital back on the map?
When we announced that we were going to show in London we had such amazing support and it’s just been unbelievable, everyone from the government to British musicians, artists, actresses and people we admire culturally. And we’re proud to play our part in celebrating British fashion. London is our home – it’s the heart of Burberry, a global luxury brand, and the centre of all our creativity. We are incredibly proud of our Britishness and showing in London was a really wonderful opportunity to celebrate that in our home city. Our global headquarters are in Westminster – it is such a beautiful part of London with the Thames, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben… Our building emphasises the modern expression of the brand – a balance of what we have stood for, what we represent today and where we are going.
You are the wunderkind of London fashion, do you feel pressure to keep doing amazing collections season after season?
It’s not about me or any one person, it’s about Burberry. I admire this company and everything it stands for. When I arrived I said it was a beautiful jewel that needed polishing and over the last few years we have done that and believe there is even more to come. It’s a brand with the most incredible heritage and history of over 155 years and yet at the same time it’s incredibly modern and in touch with what is going on today. That’s our job – to keep it relevant and exciting so that it remains that way for years to come.
What’s been your favourite collection that you’ve done and why?
Fashion is about the present so the collections that I am working on at the moment are the ones that excite me the most, so I couldn’t really pick one particular season. For me design is very instinctive, whether it’s a jacket, a building or a fragrance bottle, I approach it with the same mindset and eye. With Burberry that always starts with our heritage and our archives – taking elements of our history and our culture – and putting them into today’s lifestyle and the dynamics and speed of the way we all live today. We really respect those elements in the design process then try to add something modern to make it feel relevant for today without losing the timeless Burberry qualities.
It’s the launch of Burberry Body this year fronted by Rosie Huntington- Whiteley. Does she epitomise the Burberry woman?
Rosie really captures the spirit of our brand and has this effortless sensuality. Burberry is part of her history and it felt perfectly natural for her to be our first Burberry Body.
What was your favourite part of the process of creating a fragrance?
Working with Rosie and Mario [Testino] for the shoot was incredibly exciting. Especially as Mario has a long-standing relationship with Burberry.
What’s next for the Burberry brand?
There is so much we want to explore. Our heritage and the magnificent icons of our brand open up a wealth of inspiration. For us it’s a natural way of thinking to always see how we can express and articulate the Burberry brand in a more innovative way and digital is very much at the forefront of the way we communicate because it’s such an exciting way to engage people.
Stylist.co.uk will be live streaming the Burberry Prorsum spring/summer 2012 catwalk show at 3.30pm on Monday 19 September - log-on then to watch the show live.
Top Ten Burberry Moments
The year Christopher was appointed creative director [at 29].
Burberry opened its global headquarters in London.
Mayor Bloomberg officially declared it Burberry Day in New York – lighting a 400-ft high Burberry sign in Manhattan.
Christopher received an MBE for services to the fashion industry by HM Queen Elizabeth II.
Burberry returned to London Fashion Week from Milan.
Christopher became the chief creative officer.
Burberry's autumn/winter 2010 show was streamed live in 3D to more than 150 countries.
The label created their biggest ever show in Beijing with holograms, animation plus virtual rain and snow.
The launch of Burberry Body fronted by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
Main picture credit: Rex Features