Вurberry electrified London Fashion Week — and the entire fashion world — with a collection that is a game-changer for the industry. The giant tents packed with celebrities for twice-a-year shows are no more. Instead, the show took place in Maker's House — a historic building in central London — as Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s driving force, moved the company 180 degrees in a new direction.
In an exclusive interview, I asked Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer, the how and why of the brand’s new direction.
Christopher Bailey: I felt like I wanted a change. Just on a personal level, I think that as designers we crave the new. I felt that maybe I’d become formulaic in presentation. And when we decided to have the clothes in the stores and on-line after the show, it meant that we had the opportunity to look at everything. This meant that we finished designing and putting the collection together in May/June of this year, which has given us time for story telling.
SM: What was the inspiration for all this in and around the Burberry show? Where does it come from?
SM: What about putting menswear and womenswear together? How did you feel about that after all the other changes? It made the show quite long.
It was important for me to show male and female together because I think society is getting much closer. I don’t even know if I distinguish them anymore. When we used to do our menswear show first, I kept finding that menswear and womenswear were getting so close that I was forcing it. So last November I decided that we just have to do this “runway to reality” route. I’d been putting men’s and women’s together — you remember, I was putting men on the runway during the women’s shows and felt I was forcing it, so actually I feel quite free with putting them together. Maybe I should have edited more? I don’t know; this is a learning process. It’s the first time we’ve done it. It gave me a passion. I felt quite energised by it. I like changes and taking risks.
SM: What about all the handwork downstairs at Maker's House? I was very excited to see it and I know it’s on display to the public for just a few days. Is this just to show that Burberry believes in handwork?
CB: No, it’s a decision. It is just for us. We are reflecting on how important craft is today and we take it very seriously as a company. I feel we don’t talk about it enough, or express it, or articulate it enough. We do a lot of things with craftspeople, whether that be people doing embroidery, or creating textiles, or music or acting — we want to show the importance of craft.
SM: And how about that embroidery on your collar? I hope you made that yourself in your spare time!
CB: Of course! I embroidered it! No, not really — you have to go see the lady who did — she’s in the little tent. Basically if you handwrite something she embroiders your handwriting identically. It’s so beautiful.
Perhaps the best way to summarise the show comes from Christopher Bailey's own commentary in a special edition of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, A Biography: