Christopher Bailey, CEO and chief creative of Burberry, looked sharp in a navy blazer at the Burberry Art of the Trench event he hosted in Mall of the Emirates, Dubai last night in celebration of a handful of the Middle East’s creatives. Over 400 people attended, including DDFC CEO Nez Gebreel, Lebanese singer Nina Abdel Malak, Kuwaiti blogger and influencer Ascia AKF, and Egyptian-Italian model and actress Elisa Sednaoui (in a pretty, colored wrap dress from the Spring 2016 collection). Adjacent to the photocall, craftswomen from Castleford, UK (where the iconic Burberry trenches are made) displayed their trench-making skills, while others monogrammed everything from outerwear, to bags, scarves, and fragrances.
Launched in 2009, Art of the Trench is an evolving digital campaign that travels across the globe. Following the campaign video that was shot across the Gulf (see below), the evening event was intended as a celebration of sorts. Awaiting my two-minute interview slot with Bailey, I watched Middle Eastern style influencers and faces of the campaign take turns posing in front of a black backdrop that read “Art of the Trench” in gold cursive. The photos were then transmitted to a live broadcast of the jam-packed event on Burberry’s Snapchat account—which has been serving fans exclusive and unfiltered behind-the-scenes access to photo shoots, events, campaigns, and live fashion shows since February 2015.
Following Burberry’s shift to consolidating all of its lines under one label, and adopting the direct-to-consumer model, the British fashion house is also hoping to capitalize on Snapchat’s rapid rise to popularity by using it to engage a broader social media savvy clientele.
However, Burberry has always been seen as a heritage brand that comes with a heritage price tag—the iconic Burberry trench starts at US $1700; AED/SAR 6,244—and Snapchat is a mass market communication platform, with a demographic that skews heavily towards teenagers. Does the Snapchat’s Generation Z demographic really have the pocket money to buy Burberry?
Style.com/Arabia’s Managing Editor Caterina Minthe weighed in, “If you Google the words ‘Burberry profit’ the headlines alone—dating from 2014 to now—are quite telling, ‘Burberry Slumps on Profit,’ ‘Burberry Share Price Falls,’ and ‘Checkered Results,’ to cite but a few.” Minthe raised the subject of the crash in China, “Burberry and Chinese luxury consumers long maintained a burgeoning relationship—although that is no more due to the economic crash.” She added, “I’m not surprised that Bailey is now personally paying the Middle East consumers a visit. I’m certain that if Burberry products were tailored to its regional clientele—beyond sewing initials—it could engage our market even further. The last thing anyone here wants is the same trench that everyone else has. Unlike our European counterparts, we don’t like to blend in, and we certainly don’t like to blend in, in beige,” she concluded. The fact that Burberry has lost half its value this past summer is a major problem for the heritage house and one that Bailey—from the looks of his communications strategy (Recall the Burberry campaign 16-year-old Brooklyn Beckham shot?)—is hoping Generation Z will help solve.
Ahead of my interview, I was informed not to speak to Bailey about anything other than his Art of the Trench campaign (due to the House currently being in a close financial period), so I asked whether Burberry’s Snapchat followers are really the luxury brand’s target market? “Our Snapchat followers follow all of our events, shows, and campaigns, and many of them are definitely people that buy our products and that we interact with regularly,” stated Bailey. “Snapchat is about inspiring stories and that’s why we always capture our events and campaigns on there. I think it’s a fantastic platform,” he concluded. Certainly Bailey has always been a tech guy, and time will tell if Burberry’s own story starts a new chapter.
Burberry personalization services are available at Burberry stores in the Mall of the Emirates from April 13th to April 20th and Dubai Mall from April 16th to April 20th.