After 17 years, Christopher Bailey is leaving Burberry, Business of Fashion has reported this morning. His last collection will be for Spring 2018 (the brand showed Fall 2017 in September as part of its see-now, buy-now strategy) and he’ll remain president and chief creative officer of the company until next March.
Bailey, 46, began his career working for Donna Karan and under Tom Ford at Gucci. He joined Burberry in 2001 as design director, and eventually became chief creative officer in 2009. In 2014, he took over as CEO after Angela Ahrendts’ departure, but was replaced last year by Céline’s Marco Gobbetti. Over the years, Bailey, a Royal College of Art alum, has racked up numerous awards, including the CFDA’s International Award, the British Fashion Awards’ Designer of the Year award, and several honorary degrees. He’s been credited with reinvigorating the British luxury house, and in particular, helping to disassociate it from “chav” culture in the early aughts (he would later revisit this in a menswear collaboration with Gosha Rubchinskiy in an attempt to court a younger, fresher audience). Most importantly, he’s kept Burberry at the forefront of the evolving fashion landscape. The brand was one of the first to go direct-to-consumer, consolidate its womenswear and menswear shows, and embrace social media.
His last few collections have marked a notable aesthetic shift for the heritage label. For Spring 2017, he referenced British sculptor Henry Moore and reimagined house signatures in a conceptual way; for Fall 2017, he looked to the wardrobe of the working class, lining his set with photographs shot by social documentarians.
Still, under Bailey’s direction, profitability has fallen. BoF reported a 21 percent decrease in profits from the fiscal year ending in March 2017, a result, perhaps, of what the trade calls a “stale formula” and a digital strategy that began to feel repetitive. It’s unknown if this is what led to Bailey’s exit, but with nearly 14 million dollars in his pocket, something tells us he’s going to do just fine.
A spokesperson for Burberry confirmed that the brand has begun the process of looking for a successor, and that “change is a natural part of any company.” Phoebe Philo, who’s rumored to leave Céline by the end of the year, is reportedly a potential candidate, which would make sense as Gobbetti worked with her during his time at Céline. As for Bailey, his next move is yet to be announced, but his replacement will undoubtedly have big shoes to fill.