Christopher Bailey bows out of Burberry with LGBTQ statement
Rainbow nation at Burberry, where Christopher Bailey ended his 17-year run at the house with a rainbow-colored collection and highly engaged statement of support for the LGBTQ community.
For his finale, Bailey took the fashion world out to the west of London to the Dimco Buildings, installing a massive light installation – borrowed from Australia’s Museum of Old and New – which turned into rainbow-hued tent defined by hundreds of laser beams.
Rainbow hues were seen in leather puffers; rapper sweatshirts; nylon jerkins and in the massive shearling coat worn by Cara Delevingne, who pranced about at the finale with fellow supermodel Edie Campbell.
Traffic snaked out past the giant Westfield mall, and down to the massive warehouse, passing fans from Queens Park Rangers leaving a football match; and several hundred irate Anti-Fur protestors. “Shame on London Fashion Week!” they chanted amid much foul language aimed at every guest.
Inside, the mood was surprisingly chipper considering that this was the departure of the man who made Burberry’s beige, red and black plaid a ubiquitous luxury signifier. Who built the house into the UK’s only truly giant global luxury brand.
A rainbow plaid inevitably too; along with edgier versions of many of Bailey’s now classic ideas for the house – from lace cocktails and graffiti shearling to candy-colored sponge coats and truncated bomber pilot jackets. Along with some English baroque prints that looked curiously like Versace, used in street style blousons.
“A company needs to reflect its culture. And, we, as a company, always did a lot philanthropically. But I wanted something that was less under the radar. And the LGBTQ community is one I have always championed for many, many years, but much more quietly. So, I wanted to do something that had a longer legacy; a big organization like ours saying that we stand for something,” Bailey told FashionNetwork.com.
“I wanted this show to be a reflection of Burberry’s past and our present and also my great excitement to see what the future holds for Burberry. Because the next person who has the privilege of coming into Burberry and into my shoes is incredibly lucky and I know they will do wonderful things and Burberry will flourish,” exclaimed Bailey, after posing for photos with Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss.
After stints at Donna Karan and Gucci, Bailey arrived at Burberry as design director in 2001, becoming its creative director three years later.
He will not fully leave the house until December of this year. When he will relinquish his unique title of Chief Creative Officer, which he took back in May 2014 with the departure of then CEO Angela Ahrendts. For a period of three years, Bailey was both CEO and CCO, though he gave up the first title with the arrival of Marco Gobbetti from Céline as CEO last summer. Gobbetti declined to say when he would announce a successor to Bailey.
“I’ll tell you something when I am really ready. I promise. OK? What I’d like people to remember from tonight is what an amazing job Christopher did. He is a huge talent who gave so much to Burberry and to fashion and to London. That will never be forgotten.”
Asked about his plans, Bailey responded: “I’d like a period of reflection. There is so much out there to consider in this world, I am not committing to anything right now. Just listening.”
It’s rather early in life for this 46-year-old Yorkshireman to consider long-term retirement.
Bailey, who is married to actor Simon Woods, is the first openly gay executive among FTSE 100 corporations. He ended his reign with the charming modesty for which he has always been noted. Compared to other finales; like Tom Ford at Gucci, Raf Simons at Christian Dior or Valentino from his own house, this was a far from funereal mood.
To the tune of Jimmy Somerville’s Don’t Leave me this Way, he took a long bouncy walk before the standing ovation of 1,500, pausing only to kiss Woods on the lips.
“I was thinking I owe this audience deep respect and admiration. Because it is an industry that I love so dearly and I feel very privileged that it opened its arms when I was quite young and let me in,” Bailey smiled almost bashfully.
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