Christopher Bailey has announced that he’ll depart his post at the helm of Burberry, effective March 2018. He’s been with the brand since 2001, when he was hired as design director.
And is widely credited with helping to elevate the British house beyond its plaid, preppy roots into a global fashion force worn on red carpets by the likes of Rihanna, Emma Watson, Naomi Watts, and Blake Lively. At one point, Bailey served as both CCO and CEO for the brand; he stepped down as CEO in July, a mantle that has been taken up by former Celine exec Marco Gobbetti.
While Bailey will still design the spring/summer 2018 collection (making the pieces instant collector’s items), Burberry higher-ups are reportedly already hard at work trying to identify a replacement – so, fashion followers, start hedging your bets now. Business of Fashion has already noted that, amid rumors that she’s planning an exit from Celine, Phoebe Philo is an obvious choice for the job. And if anyone can capture the hearts of critics and consumers alike, it’s her.
In addition to upping the ante on design and getting Burberry on the backs of Hollywood’s hottest celebrities, Bailey was also instrumental in creating a digital presence for the house by streaming runway shows live and installing screens and iPads in flagship stores. In 2016, the house even adopted the “see now, buy now” sales model, allowing consumers to purchase certain “seasonless” items straight from the runway. However, many in the industry have lamented that in recent years, the designs have grown stale and the runway shows predictable.
“I do truly believe, however, that Burberry’s best days are still ahead of her and that the company will go from strength to strength with the strategy we have developed,” Bailey said in a statement. He has yet to reveal specific career plans following the departure.