Burberry’s Christopher Bailey to bow out as classic label looks to revitalise

British trench coat maker’s president and chief creative officer will leave at the end of March next year, company announces amid stuttering sales

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 11:40am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 2:45pm

Christopher Bailey, who made Burberry into a global label, will part ways with the British trench coat maker next year as its new chief executive moves to revitalise the brand.

After joining Burberry from Gucci in 2001, Bailey worked with former CEOs Rose Marie Bravo and Angela Ahrendts to make its classic camel, red and black check designs essential for fashion lovers around the world.

Bailey will forgo US$21 million in share awards when he steps down at the end of March to pursue new projects.

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Ad campaigns fronted by model Kate Moss helped sales rise in the early 2000s, but Burberry became a victim of its own success when its check designs were widely counterfeited.

However, Bailey successfully re-established its upmarket credentials and became chief executive when Ahrendts left for Apple in 2014. But Burberry’s growth faltered, first as demand in Asia slowed, and then as it failed to ride a rebound.

The 46-year-old designer was paid £3.5 million (US$4.6 million) in the year to end-March.

His compensation had long been an issue, and a near £20 million share award which was not linked to performance was opposed by a majority of shareholders in 2014.

Some of these shares, which were awarded by Burberry’s board, are included in those now being surrendered by Bailey.

Burberry said Bailey would step down from his board positions of president and chief creative officer at the end of March, but would support Marco Gobbetti, who succeeded him as CEO, until the end of 2018.

Bailey’s exit will enable Gobbetti to revamp Burberry’s creative direction as well as its operations, analysts said.

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The company, which still manufactures trench coats in Yorkshire in northern England, poached Gobbetti from Celine to overhaul the business earlier this year, but left Bailey with creative control.

Gobbetti has already made changes to the company founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, cutting costs and striking a licensing deal for make-up and perfumes after they were brought in-house.

Burberry moved upmarket under Bailey, emphasising its British heritage and launching new leather goods like the Bridle bag. He also used social media and shook up traditional fashion production cycles by enabling people to buy designs as soon as they were shown on the catwalk.