Christopher Bailey Bids Farewell with a Rainbow Collection for Burberry

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It all started with Alessandro Michele’s tenure at Gucci. His clothes and accessories are colorful and eye-catching, they are luxurious but fun, they’re tongue-in-cheek, they look familiar but are somehow still new, they create worlds within worlds similar to the style of auteur Wes Anderson, they are products with mass appeal that don’t look commercial, and they sell by the boatloads.

Everyone wants a piece of Michele’s technicolor vision.

On Tuesday, Gucci’s parent company, Kering, debuted astonishing financial results for 2017, with Gucci as its crown jewel. The Italian luxury brand saw an increase of 46% over the previous year, with a total of $7.4 billion in sales. That’s growth so rapid and so monumental that it’s practically inconceivable.

The instant saleability, desirability, and popularity of Gucci created astronomical financial success in the market, and with that came an increased pressure to perform for the bottom line for all other luxury brands worldwide. Competing brands will either be crushed by the pressure, or like Burberry and its startling Spring/Summer 2018 collection, they will produce diamonds.

Burberry Spring/Summer 2018
Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

It’s Christopher Bailey’s last go as Creative Director, and he held nothing back. In fact, one senses a kind of Gucci-esque success story within the framework of Burberry’s new look. It started last season with Bailey reappropriating Burberry’s own iconic checkered pattern, turning it out on chav-esque streetwear with mass youth appeal. One of his first acts at Burberry was aiding in the reclamation of commercial licenses that forced the brand’s financial downturn when the Burberry check was bootlegged within an inch of its life. It makes sense that a return to its signature, married with a new consumer outlook (recognizing that the new generation has a strong penchant for comfort, streetwear, and logos), would result in the kind of collection that will do bang-up at the cash register.

Burberry Spring/Summer 2018
Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

Why is that? For decades, fashion has pushed an idea of luxury that is inaccessible to all but the very privileged. Yet, nowadays, athleisure is the look du jour. It’s far more common to see fashion influencers and A-listers decked out in hoodies, leggings, and sneakers than it is to see them in more editorial, high-fashion looks. In the words of the inestimable fashion critic, Robin Givhan, “Today, informality is a luxury.” And at Burberry, it doesn’t get much more informal than the streetwear it did so very well for Spring/Summer 2018. Hoodies, trenches, track pants, rave-y maxi skirts made from parachute material, crocheted mesh sweaters: These are the trappings of the London hooligan, upcycled for the luxury shopper. Rounding it all out was a ubiquitous rainbow motif – that symbol of equality, hope, and peace. The entire collection hit the right notes; it felt in sync with the “now” and it represented a brand that finally found its groove.

It’s ironic that what feels like a new beginning for Burberry is the end for Christopher Bailey.

It’s ironic that what feels like a new beginning for Burberry is the end for Christopher Bailey. He did such a remarkable job of dragging the brand into the 21st century, and then transforming it into one of the most technologically savvy companies on the market. Let’s hope his successor is as keen to follow the path he just explored for Spring/Summer 2018, because down that way lies tremendous financial success.

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