After being Burberry’s Chief Creative Officer since 2009, following his appointment as Creative Director in 2001, Christopher Bailey will become the brand’s CEO, upon Angela Ahrendts’ departure, as the former brand leader will turn to Apple, in mid-2014, as the Head of Retail, and first woman executive since 2006.
The British designer already crossed paths with Angela Arendts, at the very beginning of his career, when he was working for Dona Karan, in New York, shortly after his graduation from London’s Royal College of Art, and Arendts was the president of the brand.
“Here was this young British guy who just started there. He was really cute, and God, he was so talented,” Ahrendts remembered, in a talk with Co. Design. “All the lights were off in the entire building, and Christopher was sitting there all by himself at 9 or 10 at night, sketching. I went down this dark hall, and this little light was on in this little office. So I just peeked my head in, and that’s how we initially got to know each other. I looked in his eyes, and I trusted him.”
And indeed, Bailey has the merit of re-vamping a brand, that almost got lost in the scrap heap of history. “There’s no way to paint a rosy picture,” he told Shortlist about his arrival at Burberry, over a decade ago. “I thought, ‘Yes, it may be fusty, but there is still a beating heart here.’ And, even though the brand had been abused, it was authentic. There was still a soul, a little spark.”
“I also feel privileged to be keeping my role as chief creative officer,” added Bailey in a recent company statement. “We have a clear strategy to build on, an increasingly powerful brand and an inspiring management team. Together, we will continue to push the boundaries of design, technology and communication while never forgetting our heritage, our Britishness and our values.”
That said, the new appointment didn’t manage to get the trust from the industry so far, as the shares in Burberry fell almost 8 per cent, after the brand’s announcement. Will Bailey be able to maintain the performances of his fashion powerhouse? “Christopher Bailey has been at Burberry for 12 years. Nobody knows it better than him. It’s a design-led business, with a creative leader at the helm. He also has an incredibly sharp commercial mind,” told Carol Fairweather, Burberry’s Financial Director, to the Financial Times.