Burberry appoints Riccardo Tisci as Chief Creative Officer

As Burberry taps Riccardo Tisci as Chief Creative Officer, Walpole’s CEO Helen Brocklebank muses on what his appointment will mean for the British fashion house.

 

Walpole was in New York for its annual US trade mission last October when the news broke that Christopher Bailey was to leave Burberry after 17 years with Britain’s most successful luxury brand. Since then, barely a day has gone by without someone speculating over who might take on the biggest job in British fashion. Those betting on Phoebe Philo, who had formed such a strong partnership with Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti at Céline, should have looked further back to Gobbetti’s time at Givenchy. His appointment in 2005 of Riccardo Tisci as Givenchy Creative Director led to a radical transformation of the fortunes of the then ailing, if iconic, fashion house, bringing a sexy, gothic sensibility to couture and a new streetwear aesthetic to ready-to-wear, quickly making Tisci’s Givenchy the hottest label on the planet with a host of hip, influential devotees from Madonna to Kanye West.

The appointment of Tisci to Burberry is a bold and exciting move, particularly in the light of what Gobbetti has laid out as his strategy to elevate Burberry into a true luxury player, putting it firmly in what he believes is “the most rewarding, enduring segment of the market”.

Financial markets reacted positively to the news yesterday, with Burberry 4% up at close of play, as did key fashion commentators: Sunday Times Luxury Content Director and Editor in Chief of Sunday Times Style, Lorraine Candy, told Walpole she was “excited by what this appointment will mean for London Fashion Week, it will bring a renewed global spotlight and energy to the city’s most creative event. It will be interesting to see how he will merge his sportswear and couture aesthetic for Burberry. I think the front row will be fun too.” Catherine Hayward, Esquire and Esquire Big Black Book Fashion Director said that although she “…certainly didn’t see this one coming… on reflection, it makes sense as he and Marco Gobbetti have a shared history at Givenchy. Burberry is certainly heading for some big changes”. Other commentators have noted that Tisci also has form when it comes to creating desirable, high-value accessories, notably his Antigona bag – as well as delivering high-impact credibility on the front row and on the red carpet, both of which could be powerful additions to Burberry’s existing strengths.

Tisci is a pioneering designer with the power to create trends that ripple into the outward reaches of fashion –the enduring passion for high-end sweatshirts and cool sneakers began with him, he promoted inclusiveness, and he was the first designer to cast a transgender model. He has also shown how he can make the codes of a couture house feel fresh, modern and relevant, yet still true to the DNA of a brand.

The relationship between CEO and Creative Chief is always a game-changer in luxury: when it works well, as it did with Gobbetti and Tisci at Givenchy, it has the power to completely transform a brand and the partnership promises to be as creatively and commercially successful at Burberry as it was at Givenchy. Tisci has proven he is both a talented craftsman and a great artist. He’s no stranger to Britain, having trained at Central St Martins, graduating in 1999, and will offer a compelling and original take on Burberry and usher in an exciting chapter in its history. Will his urban, often provocative, design signatures translate effortlessly to the label’s softer, innately British codes? Walpole can hardly wait for his first collection in September to find out.

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