Fashion House Histories: Burberry Part II

This month, Cicilia Brognoli presents the second part of Burberry’s history, from the early 2000s to nowadays. Did you catch the first part?Check out Burberry’s founding and early story in Issue 59!

CHRISTOPHER BAILEY ERA

For many, the pairing of Christopher Bailey and Burberry sounds like an obvious combination. For those who did not know what we are talking about, Bailey was one of the most enduring Chief Creative Officers at the head of a non-eponymous brand. He took the company’s artistic reins back in 2001, making it a luxury label. Indeed, when he arrived, Burberry was nothing more than the trench coat inventor.

It was not all plain sailing, as, after just a few months of Bailey’s arrival, Burberry’s fame tumbled into a period of repulsion from the British upper class. In 2002, the actress Danielle Westbrook was caught by paparazzi wearing a total Nova checked look. Suddenly, all luxury department stores removed Burberry from their windows. An aura of sloppiness dropped on this brand. 

Bailey restored its fame thanks to his visionary ideas and highly commercial strategy. He paved the label’s way to success using celebrity campaigns. 

Emma Watson, Sienna Miller, and Victoria Beckham featured in the advertisement campaigns. In no time, Burberry became one of the most desirable brands. 

Bailey also turned his attention on well-known models like Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, and Cara Delevinge, now the most famous faces associated with the brand. Bailey brought Burberry to London Fashion Week (LFW), making it one of the most anticipated events. Thus, LFW started attracting editors and influencers from all over the world. 

BE STRATEGIC 

Although Bailey has a lot of merits, Burberry has always been a snappy and strategic company. Its success started thanks to the masterful handcraft and visionary design, always looking to develop classic yet timeless products. However, no top-quality product can make its way without a flawless marketing and communication strategy. One of this iconic brand’s central pillars is the focus on luxury store experience aimed at elevating customer service. Even before the pandemic, this label heavily relied on digital presence, establishing itself as a leader in online sales and experiences. 

AT THE DAWN OF ONLINE LUXURY

Despite being founded more than 150 years ago, Burberry has never been stuck in the past. Its motto, “Prorsum”, a Latin word meaning forward, is the perfect demonstration. Burberry has always looked ahead, establishing itself as a visionary in customer experience. 

Thanks to the ideal interrogation and unity in the shopping experience, whether in-store, online, or by phone, Burberry is one of the world leaders from an omnichannel perspective. The digital connection with its customers is fundamental, and for this reason, the company has always invested in technology. 

In 2009, it was one of the first luxury brands to appear on Facebook. Shortly after, it started using Twitter, bringing the products’ shoppability to the next level. People could discover and buy with one click the nail polish work by the model in the picture. Now all of this is perfectly normal, but more than a decade ago, such a novelty left many people speechless.

Burberry focuses heavily on earned media, boosting its brand awareness thanks to the social sharing of its contents by other web users. The aim is to reach super-fans and curious people simple by starting word of mouth and letting people share the news freely. 

CUSTOMISATION IS KEY

To be groundbreaking, you need economic resources combined with excellent foresight. Being a leader in the luxury market is not easy, as customers are looking for experiences rather than simply products, and customisation is key. Burberry is a symbol of timeless luxury and contemporary aesthetic. Hence, it has a very heterogeneous clientele.  Older people look for classy top quality leather products and trenches. At the same time, Millennials go crazy for product customisation and the reinterpretation of classic statement pieces.  

This company excels in satisfying its young customers, always looking for great experiences. This is a long-term strategy, as Millennials will most likely pay dividends for years to come. Burberry hits the mark with the customisation of iconic products. Owning a traditional Nova checked lined trench coat or scarf is in itself a fashion goal for many. Having a fully customised statement piece is even more remarkable. Burberry Bespoke allows people to personalize their trench by choosing from various options ranging from buttons to the lining and the outside of the jacket. In 2015, customers could experience the Burberry Scarf Bar. This offered a choice of 30 colours and yarns, and you could even have your monogram embroidered. Leaping back into the present, in-store shoppers can also scan the RFID code on the tags to access an exclusive video showing the product’s craftsmanship.

FREE DIGITAL EXPERIENCES

Back in 2009, Burberry hit the mark with its “Art of the Trench’. On this microsite, customers could post pictures wearing their beloved trench. Everyone could access the platform; hence, Burberry’s aspirational value skyrocketed, creating a proper digital community. Many fashion brands want to offer an authentic lifestyle, and Burberry is no exception.

Music and fashion often influence each other. In 2010, Burberry Acoustic was born. This platform promoted young UK talents creating a forum for discussion and collaboration. Nothing is done by chance, and of course, music artists wore Burberry’s outfits.

A trench worth thousands of pounds is certainly not for everyone. Still, a lovely digital marketing gimmick can be experienced by anyone. In 2013, the brand launched Burberry Kisses, a digital campaign in collaboration with Google promoting its new lipsticks. The brand’s website would let users send out virtual kisses in the colour of their favourite lipstick shade. People had to stare at their webcam or kiss the screen of their smartphone. 

FASHION SHOWS AND ONLINE SHOPPING

Back in 2008, Burberry live-streamed its fashion show, bringing us all just a click away. Although Burberry does not focus much on its settings, it certainly does not go easy on technological innovations. In fact, in 2016, it introduced the see-now-buy-now concept. Consumers can buy garments directly on the day of the show, both online and in the store. 

Moreover, collections became seasonless and therefore are identifies simply as ‘September’ and ‘February’. While the in-store shopping experience is more enjoyable for many, accessing Burberry’s website is like walking into the Regent’s Street flagship store. The highly appealing aesthetics, content variety, and smart features make it one of the most outstanding websites in the luxury landscape. Indeed, according to Christopher Bailey, Burberry is as much a content-driven company as it is a top fashion icon.

The strategic choice of using powerful words like leading, globally, luxury and British boosts every digital content and brand purposes.

RICCARDO TISCI’S REBRANDING BURBERRY

2018 was a decisive year for Burberry; Bailey left the brand’s creative direction after 17 years, with a magnificent tribute to the LGBTQ community. His latest collection was a triumph of rainbows and heritage checked pattern. It financially supported three charities working with LGBTQ communities located around the world. 

The gender fluidity of this collection announced the arrival of the new creative director, Riccardo Tisci. After closing his collaboration with Givenchy, which lasted 12 years, this Italian designer arrived at Burberry bringing a vision that could not be more different from Bailey’s. Tisci has a dark aesthetic and provocative style. He’s known for being one of the first designers exploring gender fluidity and luxury street style.

To give a clear break from the Bailey’ era, Tisci rebranded Burberry. He designed a new logo mixing the brand’s traditional beige colour with a modern bold font and a touch of dark orange. The result is a contemporary and cool monogram. Tisci is bursting with ideas, and who knows what else he will bring to the brand.

While we wait for the next Burberry’s collection, it is always a pleasure to leap into its history. Burberry is the perfect example of resilience and avant-garde. The brand’s adventurous spirit began way back in 1856 with Thomas Burberry and has been masterfully carried on by Bailey and now by Tisci.

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