Much celebrating (and some amazement) about the stellar stock market debut of Moncler yesterday, with some analysts attributing the excitement over buying into the brand to the idea it could be “ the next Burberry”. But is that true, or wildly optimistic? I can see where they are coming from, but am not necessarily convinced.
Today’s announcement that Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts was leaving (mid-next year) to become Apple’s head of retail, and current Chief Creative Officer/designer Christopher Bailey was taking her place while retaining his design responsibilities has the potential to change not just fashion but tech, and the inter-relationship between the two. Hyperbole? I don’t think so. Consider the Butterfly effect:
Does anyone think just taking a picture of a celebrity in your stuff – or taking a picture of a celebrity in your stuff and making a video of the picture-taking – or even taking a picture of an artisan making your stuff, is enough to convince today’s super-suspicious-of-all-marketing consumer of the integrity of a brand? Burberry clears doesn’t think so, and their just unveiled Autumn/Winter campaign is their response. It’s multi-layered! It’s referential! It has history! It has retail! It goes way beyond the usual. Is it a harbinger of what’s coming? Probably.
In a few hours (4pm UK time) Burberry will take to the runway at London Fashion Week (that’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey with Samantha Cameron at the opening reception for LFW, left), and viewers will take to their smart phones not just to watch the show, which is being streamed on pretty much every part of social media you can imagine, but to order coats and bags… with their names on them! They will arrive on their doorstep in nine weeks, which is much earlier than in stores. Not only that: they will also be able to access video of their product being made, just for them. The knees go weak.
Ok, so that sarcasm was maybe a bit uncalled for. On one level I think offering videos of the customised product is a very smart thing. It pulls customers into the process, which provides an increased sense of ownership and also underscores the hand-made side of things, partly justifying the price and categorisation of Burberry as a luxury brand. But on another, this feels a little smoke and mirrors to me.
I did a Lunch with the FT with Burberry’s chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, (looking snazzy, left), which is running tomorrow, and in our long – and fun – conversation, the thing that struck me most was the revelation that he limits his technology interaction largely to his professional life. Yup: no Facebook, no Twitter. It’s a work-only thing.
Why is this interesting? Well, because Mr Bailey has been a driving force behind Burberry, which is streaming its men’s show tomorrow on numerous social media platforms from Europe to China, becoming the number one high-end fashion company in the digital space.
And the Burberry flagship on Regent Street was revamped, under Mr Bailey’s direction, with an astonishing number of screens that can do such things as show you how your trench coat would look in the rain.
Anyone else noticed that these days you can’t blink an eye without someone — a designer, blogger, brand — announcing they have just “curated” some on-line content? But isn’t this simply a new word for “editor”? And aren’t both terms being devalued — to the detriment of the consumer?
The other day I got a nice email informing me that Marigay McKee, formerly Harrods’ Fashion & Beauty director, had been promoted to “Chief Merchant Officer,” a relatively new title in the luxury world as far as I can tell (and one not to be confused with that other CMO, chief marketing officer), but one that, I think, reflects not just a titular promotion, but a systemic change in industry thinking.
Tonight is the beginning of what is being billed as the biggest Fashion’s Night Out ever, although it’s more like Fashion’s Afternoon Out: a noon-9pm (Saturday) shopping extravaganza in Japan launched by an evening pre-shopping gala, with some of the proceeds presumably going to benefit earthquake relief efforts. But that’s not the half of it.
Today, I have learnt an important lesson: when it comes to fashion, last week’s inside joke is this week’s exciting new initiative. After all, there I was a few days ago, giggling with a friend about the Kanye West show, saying “Why did he want to start a fashion line? He’s just a great singer; it would be like Karl Lagerfeld wanting to be a rapper”, when, lo and behold, the information arrives: Burberry is releasing a single: “Rose Unplugged at Abbey Road for Burberry.”
The Vanity Fair New Establishment 100 list has just been unveiled, and its criteria for picking “the 100 most influential” are increasingly impenetrable.