What no ego He is the fashion world's biggest star, lauded by his stellar front row… so how DOES Burberry's Christopher Bailey remain the nicest man in fashion
07:55 GMT, 20 September 2012
His is the hottest show in town at London Fashion Week, with precious passes rationed like Willy Wonka's golden tickets and a star-studded front row to boot.
But Burberry Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey does not let the pressure get to him.
Gracious, charming, and relaxed, he is also unfeasibly humble for a man who is behind the transformation of what is arguably the world's biggest fashion brand.
Greeting guests backstage after the show, some of whom were Olympic champions (he says his front row consists of people he admires, and who do 'incredible things') – Bailey was more
excited about getting to hold rower Pete Reed's gold medal than he was about his own
Scroll down to hear from Christopher Bailey
Awesome finale: The model present creations from the Burberry Spring/Summer 2013 collection
In the pink: The 28 models walked out at the end in a rainbow of metallic trenchcoats
'I never thought I'd get to do something like this, it's incredible,' he enthused.
Speaking of incredible, Bailey's collection, his most colourful to date, was said by the designer to be inspired by British fashion
photographer Norman Parkinson's work from the 40s and 50s, whose trademark pops of colour made for the palette of rich, saturated hues of fuchsia, scarlet, forest
green and indigo.
'I wanted to do something really
playful, really fun. I wanted to make people smile, for the colours to be exciting and pop, to be juicy, he said. 'When you see colour, it changes the way you see the world. It makes people happy. It just felt the right moment to do it with this collection – for it to be sexier and sassier.'
confident use of colour is testament to how assured he is in his Chief
Creative Officer role – the title he has held since 2009.
Bailey dares to dabble
where angels wouldn't, taking the iconic Burberry trench and shifting it
up a gear, then up again – transforming it into a glittering peacock
creation, rendering it in
metallic pink pleats, or working it over in green lace.
He achieves that, he says, by respecting the legacy of the brand.
'It's really important that you stay true
to your history and your DNA,' he said. 'I look a lot to the archives and our
history, but I also want to make sure that it is right for now and for
Elegant: Cara Delevingne wore a beautiful wool trench with cape detail
'It's so important to to know who you
are, your roots, your history,' he said. 'So I always start there. The
incredible thing about Burberry is that it's 157 years old and it has
had so many different personalities throughout the years – but it's been
'Over that period the world has changed – but it's been able to jig along with it.
So whenever I go into the archives there's always something else. Every
time I think I've seen everything, there's another little nuance that
takes me off in a different direction.'
Indeed, ever mindful of the heritage of the
brand, for this collection he looked back to the archives from the early 1900s, borrowing from the capes and corsetry he found there.
The result Elegant, long capes
brought up to date in cream wool, midnight blue coated cotton or
cropped; given balloon sleeves and paired with hot pants (they certainly
weren't doing that in the 1900s).
Last season's folkloric
flourishes – woodland creature motifs and earthy tones – made way for a
shimmering show of vivid purple, green, burnt sienna and gold.
Bailey said he wanted the fabrics he used in the show to have that modernity, but to be able to play with real traditions as well. So he made lace out of leather, but contrasted that with traditional double satins. Plastics and metal sat alongside very traditional double cotton.
'The whole idea was juxtapositon between these very new things, and these very traditional things, which is how I think we look at everything, not only fashion,' he said.
a classic: Bailey isn't afraid to experiment with colour and detail –
without losing sight of the heritage of the brand
Inspiration for hot pink and a spectrum of blues came courtesy of Norman Parkinson's photography from the 40s and 50s
Bailey reworked the classic trench in metallic hues, ruffles or sequins
His admirers were out in their
droves to take in the spectacle.
Anna Wintour sat front row alongside Andy Murray and his
girlfriend Kim Sears; Victoria Pendleton took in the show
alongside Dita von Teese, Gabriella Wilde and Roo Panes (stars of the
last Burberry campaign). There was Dev Patel, Harry Styles (who said he loved the men's
trousers and the blue trench) and Harvey Weinstein, who declared the
Dita von Teese, dressed head-to-toe
in autumn/winter Burberry and carrying an umbrella with fox head, said
she was a huge admirer of Bailey's work.
'It was beautiful,' she told us backstage. 'The peacock trench was stunning, and I loved all the colour.'
the apparent ease with which this man creates, Bailey, who has just celebrated the opening of a new flagship
store on London's Regent St – a four floor temple to Burberry he says offers the customer a 'living experience' of Burberry.com – is not a
man to coast.
At the same
time as he was designing the Prorsum 2013 collection we saw today, he
had Burberry London, eyewear, accessories and menswear on the go too.
oversaw the entire renovation of the historic building that houses the
new store, an old cinema dating back to 1820, looking back to old plans
for original architectural detailing and commissioning traditional
British craftsmen to recreate or restore its beauty.
at the forefront of technical innovation too – uniting millions of fans
globally via social networking sites and kitting out his stores with
interactive mirrors, concert-quality sound systems and the world's largest
screen (of its type), among other wizardry.
Pretty palette: Blush satin skirts, pencil dresses, rose-hued capes and balloon shoulders – with pops of contrast courtesy of yellow shoes
Bailey reworked the classic trench in metallic hues, ruffles, lace or sequins
But for all the technology at his fingertips, Bailey says preserving the heritage of the brand is crucial.
'What is important is we stay very
true to our journey, our heritage – but also add excitement,' he said.
'That's what the shows are about, that's what the Regent Street store is
'It's a very ambitious project. We are just about to open a standalone menswear shop in London, another
store in Chicago. We have lots of long-term plans we've been working on –
and it's important that we keep working towards those long-term goals.'
'It's about believing in the
heritage, believing in the team, believing in the vision.
'And it's about
doing something that makes people smile, that makes people want to
engage, whether it's online, whether it's physical, whether it's at the
show like this.'
With fans based across the globe from here to Hong Kong and back again, it's important for him to make the show – and the stores – appealing on a global scale too.
FROW: Anna Wintour sat next to Olympic tennis champ Andy Murray and his girlfriend Kim Sears
'We stream these shows live all
around the world,' he says. 'We need to engage different consumers in
different parts of the world.'
Could he have imagined in 2001 that Burberry would have become this big, this much of a social media superstar
'For me it's like this true little British diamond,' he said. 'I saw such huge potential in it. But did I imagine this No. But I think it's great to be flying this British flag all over the world.'
DID YOU KNOW
One percent of the value of all purchases made in Burberry Regent Street and online go to the Burberry Foundation, an organisation dedicated to helping young people realise their potential through the power of creativity
content with helming the world's most successful social media fashion
brand and reinventing the wheel (or at least the trench), Bailey somehow
manages to be a Very Nice Man Indeed too.
case in point: Post-show, when many designers want nothing more than to
scurry off to drink champagne, and roll their eyes at questions they
deem pedestrian, Bailey spent two hours at the centre of a mob of
thrusting Dictaphones and television cameras in his face, bombarding
him with the same questions over again.
even as he told the 60th journalist his Norman Parkinson tale, he was
as animated and passionate as he was with the first – making every one
feel valued – even thanking them for their patience.
It's tempting to say this success of his couldn't have happened to a nicer
bloke – but that suggests Christopher Bailey is not master of his own
As unassuming, gracious and humble as he may be, this is a man who is totally in control – and thank goodness for that.
Epic: The show took place in a Kensington Gardens, the glass roof and lights giving an impression of bright sunshine
A very very nice man indeed: Christopher Bailey poses backstage ahead of his Burberry Prorsum 2013 spring/summer catwalk show at London Fashion Week
SO… WHO WAS ON THE FROW
That's quite a line-up: Actor Julian Ovenden, Olympic rower Pete Reed, actor Saif Ali Khan, actress Alice Eve, gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese, One Direction's Harry Styles, Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, Burberry girl and Brit actress Gabriella Wilde, legendary snapper Mario Testino, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and Apple designer Sir Jonathan Ive
Burberry front row: From left, Italian actor Nicolas Vaporidis, actress Giorgia Surina, Burberry campaign star and musician Roo Panes, singer Alison Mosshart, musician Miles Kane, model, actress and singer Suki Waterhouse and model and actress Olivia Palermo
Dita Von Teese and Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul catch up before the show
Breaking bad star Aaron Paul with Dita Von Teese
LEFT: Tali Lennox arrives at the show in top-to-toe Burberry, and RIGHT, One Direction singer Harry Styles in Burberry
Olivia Palermo wore Burberry well for her front row appearance
RIGHT, Tali Lennox posed next to male model Callum Turner before heading inside to the Prorsum show
Andy Murray and girlfriend Kim Sears made a rather attractive doubles pairing as they arrived for the show
Suki Waterhouse in yellow Burberry arrived with boyfriend Miles Kane
LEFT: Lady Victoria Hervey, RIGHT, Florence Brudenell-Bruce
VIDEO: Burberry S/S13 Show: Christopher Bailey interview