Burberry's mix of creativity and commerce

As the Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer of Burberry, Christopher Bailey has managed to weave art with business to profound effect

Designer Profile

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In an industry built on creativity, the commercial aspects can sometimes be frowned upon as hindering the art of fashion. And yet for Bailey, the two can together be the perfect combination in creating a collection that’s both inspiring and wearable.

Bailey discusses Burberry’s approach to the fashion industry with journalist Colin McDowell for The Woolmark Company.

“When creativity and commerce come together, that’s when it becomes magical,” he explains of his design process in our exclusive video interview, hosted by respected fashion journalist Colin McDowell. “I absolutely see what we do as design and not art, and that’s a big distinction for me. Design is about people having an emotional reaction to something but also a very functional, pragmatic approach to something... all commerce is, is making something relevant to people.”

Burberry’s Christopher Bailey on the red carpet at the British Fashion Awards. Photography: Mike Marsland/WireImage.

Luxury British fashion house Burberry was established in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, and rose to global prominence with its now-iconic gabardine trench coat, originally developed to protect British soldiers from the wind and rain during World War I. Today, the brand comprises a broad product offering, from beauty and fragrance through to shoes and accessories, with the trench coat serving as the core inspiration for every line and collection.
A graduate of the Royal College of Art, British-born Bailey joined Burberry in 2001 following stints at Donna Karan and Gucci, and was subsequently appointed creative director in 2004, a role that became, in 2009, chief creative officer. Bailey is largely credited with reviving the company through his innovation in Burberry’s digital presence, with projects including the interactive Art of the Trench and see-now, buy-now runway presentations, as well as his ability to continually transform the core trench coat product, with various collections showcasing it in different forms, fabrics and finishes. 

Included in many of Burberry’s collections are pieces crafted from wool, which Bailey credits as being a luxurious yet practical fibre. “There’s the functional side of wool and there’s the aesthetic side of wool, and the diversity of what you can do with wool,” he explains. “It’s a natural fibre, so it’s a living, breathing fibre, so it’s very comfortable, it keeps you warm in the winter and helps you to stay cool in the summer. You can do many, many things with wool – it’s a very versatile fibre – and also you can design many things into wool, with different weaves, different colours, different twists.”

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