The English fashion house has announced that Christopher Bailey will step down from his position as president and chief creative designer in March 2018. Rumblings of change had set the fashion world abuzz in July when Bailey was replaced as CEO by Marco Gobetti.
In 2001, Burberry was best known for their distinctive outerwear. That all changed when Bailey arrived from Gucci to work as design director. The company began to focus more on handbags and evening wear for women and men. Soon, celebrities like Kanye West and Emma Watson were donning Burberry, and the brand began to rapidly expand. Bailey was soon promoted to creative director and became known in the fashion world for his strong, creative touch. Additionally, he also commanded the financial side of Burberry in his role as CEO. Under his leadership, Burberry began to focus more on digital platforms. He was an early champion of see-now-buy-now, the practice of buying directly from the runway through a website. Burberry stores were equipped with iPad-wielding associates who used modern technology to make their sales, and Burberry’s regional websites were consolidated into one overall site for easier access.
Many industry insiders see Bailey’s departure as a result of the company’s waning sale numbers in Asia and the Middle East. Reportedly, Burberry’s signature checked trench coat, manufactured in England, has experienced declining sales as well. Burberry’s shareholders were also reportedly opposed to Bailey’s high level of compensation. In 2014, he received a share award of £15 million, ostensibly to prevent him from leaving the company. Shareholders were quick to express their disapproval of the deal, with 52% of investors voting against the annual remuneration report that detailed Bailey’s award.
Bailey will leave the board in March 2018, but will continue to serve in an advisory position until the end of the year. This will allow him to design the Fall/Winter 2018 collection before he leaves. Burberry has also agreed to pay Bailey £3.5 million between now and March 2018.