After 17 years at Burberry, eight of them spent as chief creative officer and two as chief executive officer, Christopher Bailey will step down as the brand’s head of design at the end of March, multiple outlets reported early Tuesday. Bailey plans to remain on hand to assist the current chief executive officer, Marco Gobbetti, who took over in July of last year, with the transition.
“I am excited to pursue new creative projects but remain fully committed to the future success of this magnificent brand and to ensuring a smooth transition,” Bailey said in a statement. “I do truly believe, however, that Burberry’s best days are still ahead of her.”
Over the course of his tenure, Bailey has overseen Burberry’s launch into a world of live streams, see-now, buy-now, and red carpet pageantry. (“Christopher Bailey Brings Burberry Into the 21st Century,” blared the headline of Tim Blanks’s profile of the designer for WSJ. magazine in 2015.) Founded in 1856, Burberry was primarily known for its (by 19th-century standards) performance-wear—which was the subject of last year’s holiday film, "The Tale of Thomas Burberry," starring Sienna Miller, Dominic West, Domhnall Gleeson, and Lily James; during Bailey’s tenure, that quickly changed.
Earlier this year, Jude Law’s daughter Iris Law became a new ambassador for the brand, showing Burberry was ready to contend with the likes of, for example, Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana, both of whom really, really love their celebrity kids. Cara Delevingne and Miller, though not scions, are both avid supporters of the brand, appearing at its shows and wearing its designs to film premieres and parties (including the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala, fashion’s biggest night).
Bailey signed on to the Burberry in 2001, after cutting his teeth at Donna Karan and Gucci; he was named creative director in 2004, and then chief creative officer in 2009. “Burberry has undergone an incredible transformation since 2001 and Christopher has been instrumental to the company's success in that period,” Gobbetti said in a statement, according to Business of Fashion. He lamented, however, that he was “not to have the opportunity to partner with him for longer,” he continued. No successor has been named; however, The Fashion Law pointed out Phoebe Philo has been rumored to be leaving Céline, where Gobbetti served as chief executive officer for nearly a decade.
Burberry’s announcement did not indicate why Bailey was stepping down (The Guardian’s rather drastic headline read “Christopher Bailey to Cut All Ties With Burberry”), but in a statement, Luca Solca, the head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas, said he supported Gobbetti’s decision to “turn the page and seek new creative talent for Burberry.” Though Bailey was appointed chief executive officer in 2014, after Angela Ahrendts, she of the Twitter-shattering, decidedly-non-Zuckerbergian pale pink lace Burberry trench coat, left to become Apple’s head of retail, he was himself replaced by Gobbetti in 2016.
One can only hope that, like Ahrendts, Bailey gets to keep some souvenirs—and retains a thing or two about wearing trench coats and silk pajamas—after he leaves Burberry.
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