34 posts tagged "Christopher Bailey"
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has the power to decree this day “Burberry Day”; apparently, he can import the English weather, too. “Yeah, it’s not quite as sunny and summery as we’d hoped it would be,” admitted Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey, as he stood on the roof of the Palace Hotel, shrouded in fog. Preparations for this evening’s party celebrating the label’s new New York City headquarters were under way—One Night Only frontman and sometime Burberry model George Craig was sound-checking his guitar, for example—and across the street, the brand-new, skyscraping Burberry sign was visible through the gloom. “We’re going to have a proper countdown before we light it up tonight,” explained Bailey. “Sort of like New Year’s. Only different.” Perhaps, it was suggested, said countdown could be a feature of an annual Burberry Day celebration, involving the wearing of trenchcoats, and…”And what?” asked Bailey, with a laugh. “A bit of cold and rain? I don’t think people in the city would like that much.” On the other hand, now New Yorkers know that if they want to complain about the weather, they can just call 311.
There will always be an England. So the saying goes, and as long as it holds true, chances are good that there will always be a Burberry. Founded by Thomas Burberry in 1856, the company has witnessed the wane of the British Empire and the waxing of the American century, survived the publication of Das Kapital and the fall of the Soviet Union, and stuck around long enough to see the invention of both the telephone and the Internet. War and peace, rack and ruin, irrational exuberance and ration books—come what may, Burberry will be there, churning out the signature check and waterproofing its latest generation of trenchcoats. In other words, Christopher Bailey is not worried. The Burberry design director is giving our global market meltdown a proper what-for, parrying the pandemonium by throwing a party. Two, in fact—and in Hollywood, no less. Burberry takes over Tinseltown tonight with a party for the relaunch of its Beverly Hills flagship; tomorrow Bailey and Graydon Carter will co-host the opening of the Vanity Fair Portraits exhibit at LACMA. Here, meanwhile, Bailey talks to Style.com about the kinship of Northern lads, the importance of gardening, and why the key to his job is keeping his eyes open.
I have to start out by asking a question on my own behalf. I’m obsessed with Sam Riley. How did you wind up casting him in the current Burberry campaign? Was it one of those things, like, you were watching Control and a little voice in your head whispered, “that’s the guy”? Or—to put it another way—are you obsessed, too?
Actually, I knew Sam, or knew of Sam, before Control ever came out. His father is from Yorkshire and works in textiles, and so in some ways we come from the same small world. Both Northern lads, you know. He’s just a lovely bloke and fun to be around. It’s sort of the opposite of your “that’s the man” theory—I mean, Control was one of the best films I’ve seen in ages, beautifully acted and beautifully shot and beautifully specific, in terms of that time, and that place. But it’s such an intense movie, I have to admit I found it draining. Whereas me and Sam, we have a laugh together. His girlfriend is lovely, too.
Speaking of movie stars, I assume that LACMA party is going to be wall-to-wall A-list. How did you wind up co-hosting?
The Portraits exhibit was at the National Portrait Gallery in London a while ago, and we sponsored it there. I’m a big fan of portraiture and biography, generally, and the Gallery is literally around the corner from Burberry’s offices, so we work with them quite a lot. This time, we were so excited about the Vanity Fair show, we decided to hold on to the relationship. Hence, LACMA.
Do you have any favorite images from the show?
So many of the pictures are very familiar, you feel like you’ve grown up with a lot of them. But then, other photos, you may recognize the person, but the actual photograph, no. The point of view is new. I’ve got a particular soft spot for a Cecil Beaton photo of Jean Cocteau. And one of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo that I’d never seen before. Iconic and very powerful.
strong>Not to be all gloom ‘n’ doom, global credit crunch, Great Depression redux about things, but does looking at photos of bygone famous people ever put you into “nothing gold can stay” kind of mindset?
One of the really nice things about working at Burberry is that the company’s longevity helps me to put things in perspective. Burberry has been about fashion, it’s been about sport, it’s been about war. Up times, down times. Every time I go back into the archives, trying to understand more of the Burberry history, I wind up finding something that surprises me. I recently found, for example, the most beautiful pair of women’s shoes from the thirties.
You do sound sanguine. People keep saying the sky is falling.
I’m not immune to the news—and I think it’s important, genuinely important, to acknowledge the moment. I’ve never been a designer who takes inspiration directly from a movie or a work of art or anything like that; I draw from the heritage of Burberry, and the energy of the moment. Right now, absolutely, you’re living in a bubble if you don’t feel the moment changing. But I look at these things philosophically—sometimes there’s a larger meaning. Maybe there’s a cleansing happening, and maybe that’s been overdue. I see challenges ahead, from a business perspective, but I also suspect that something positive will come of all this. And because the Burberry heritage comprises so much—moments of opulence, moments of economic distress—I know I have some room to maneuver.
That was a good pep talk. Do you have any other advice for the ambiently distraught?
Well, I love being outdoors. I grew up in the country in Yorkshire, and getting back to nature always feels good. You settle your mind a bit; it’s an opportunity for reflection. The summer collection really came from me working in the garden, at my place up north. Burberry’s got such an amazing outerwear heritage, I wanted to find a way to reflect that for summer, in a light way. It’s a bit nostalgic, this collection—nostalgic in that all the pieces have that ‘old friend’ quality. There’s nothing that feels sterile or untouched, or particularly “new.” That’s how I’m intuiting this moment we’re in—I feel like we’re going to be getting away from frivolous fashion for a bit, and hungering for things that feel purposeful and lived in. Integrity, that’s the word. We’re all hungry for some integrity, and taking a break from new, new, new.
That said, there is plenty of the new at Burberry, no? You’re debuting a new store concept in Los Angeles, and moving into new headquarters in London, and you’ve just recently introduced a new perfume, and a jewelry collection.
And we’re expanding the shoe collections, and opening a children’s store in the U.S. relatively soon, and coming out with the men’s version of The Beat in November. There’s a lot going on, there always is. It’ll take more than a bear market to change that.
Style.com found Christopher Bailey backstage yesterday, being spun around like a bottle by his PR, who wanted him to squeeze in chats with as many of the encircling journalists as possible before the next show got under way. Since the Burberry Prorsum collection had a strong horticultural theme this season and the collection was full of lots of sensible gardening gear, we asked Bailey about the garden that inspired him the most. “I love gardening,” the designer said happily, “and I have my own little patch of green in Yorkshire, but for this collection I was largely inspired by Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst. For me Vita’s garden has all those romantic, feminine, and yet earthly feelings that I hoped to translated into my collection.”
Fashion Week notes from the editorial director and publisher of Dazed & Confused. Look out for more animated opinions in the days ahead.