Fashion expert Stephen Wigley at the University of Huddersfield comments on Christopher Bailey leaving Burberry.
“The announcement that Mirfield-born Christopher Bailey has decided to leave Burberry, the company he been synonymous with since 2001, has been met with surprise in the fashion and business media. But in context of his achievements, and ambitions, perhaps we should have expected Bailey and Burberry to part ways.
Christopher Bailey’s career has been a fashion fairy tale in many ways, covering stints designing for Donna Karan, then Gucci, before moving to Burberry and being promoted to Chief Creative Officer in 2009. During his time at Burberry, Bailey reset the brand’s cool credentials to become arguably Britain’s defining fashion icon and applied revolutionary techniques to its digital and social media marketing, and store concepts. As a result, Burberry became a fashion phenomenon garnering commercial success, critical plaudits, and forcing the previously conservative luxury fashion world to embrace digital communications and social media.
In 2013, Bailey was named as Chief Executive Office, effectively the boss of every aspect of Burberry’s business. This was unprecedented in the fashion business – a creative professional, albeit a very articulate and astute one, had never assumed control of the commercial and operational aspects of a global, publically-owned brand. The experiment was not an overwhelming success, with shareholder discontent over faltering sales, declining share price and director remuneration becoming an increasing distraction until 2016 when former CEO of Celine, Marco Gobetti, was announced as taking over the Burberry CEO’s position. Bailey would retain his Chief Creative Officer role, and assume the vaguely-defined position of President.
Perhaps at that point the die was cast; the perceived demotion and replacement meant that, while publically anticipating a “wonderfully collaborative partnership” with Gobetti, Bailey would always be looking to move on. And now he has, but to what? Bailey’s vision for the Burberry brand as prestigious but accessible, and his influence over its entire collection defines his genuine status as one of 21st century fashion’s greats. His drive to take Burberry, and as a result the whole luxury fashion world, digital is testament to his innovation. And his desire to assume broader responsibility for the whole company, even if unsuccessful, signifies his ambition. With those points in mind, it’s no surprise that Bailey is looking beyond the confines of a role where surely he has achieved all he ever could. While his abilities will almost certainly be in demand by every fashion business around the world, perhaps Bailey’s next move will be to strike out on his own – emulating the legendary Tom Ford, who after turning around Gucci, felt there was little else to do but begin his own brand, in his own vision. Whatever he decides to do, the fashion world will await Christopher Bailey’s next move with anticipation.”
You can read the full story on the BBC News website.