Burberry

Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative Officer

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Fashion brands do a few things well (make beautiful clothes, create fantasies to stoke consumerism, help prop up the Champagne, cigarette and weight-loss industries), but understanding technology and the way people actually behave in the real world haven't traditionally been among them (See: spring collections showing in early fall, when shoppers are primed for heavy sweaters).

That has made Burberry, under Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey, stand out all the more as one of the brands that has been a beacon of what's possible in the fashion realm.

Christopher Bailey, Burberry chief creative officer
Christopher Bailey, Burberry chief creative officer Credit: Bloomberg

The company, launched in 1856, literally invented the trench coat and, over the years, achieved status as a classic British brand on the back of its iconic outerwear. By the '90s, it had fallen out of the fashion circuit.

But a turnaround starting in the late '90s was perhaps too successful. Every luxury brand balances revenue-pumping accessibility with maintaining high-end cache, and by the end of the logo-mad '90s, Burberry had taken quite a nasty spill over that edge. The brand's signature camel, black, white and red check, once a graceful coat lining, was everywhere and in the early '00s Burberry watched in horror as its hallmark plaid became the coat of arms for "chavs" (think a U.K. equivalent of the "Jersey Shore" cast).

Mr. Bailey, who joined Burberry as creative director in 2001, started work reclaiming the brand from vulgarians. Dialing back the check, he mined the aristocratic brand vibe, while applying a modern sensibility. By 2009, after several critically acclaimed collections, Burberry was at the top of its game; it won Designer Brand of the Year at the 2009 British Fashion Awards, and Mr. Bailey was honored as designer of the year. The fall 2010 Prorsum collection, which tapped the company's military roots and launched a thousand luxe shearling copycats, was a massive hit. For 2009-2010, the company reported total revenue growth of 7%, to 1.3 billion pounds, with a 19% increase in retail sales.

Along the way, Mr. Bailey orchestrated some fresh marketing initiatives that only fueled the sense of modern energy around the brand.

In 2009, the company harnessed social media and fashion tastemakers for Art of the Trench, a website where people could share photos of themselves rocking their favorite trench and comment on other looks. In early 2010, Burberry, working with BBH, London, live-streamed its fall show in 3-D. The catwalk show during London Fashion Week was simultaneously streamed to invitation-only, Bailey-designed custom sites in New York, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and L.A. and was also available online at Burberry.com.

In June, the company showed off the Autumn/Winter 2010 collection with an interactive ad campaign that allowed viewers to navigate 180-degree views of fashion video, the products and models. For its Spring 2011 collection, the brand once again live-streamed its fashion week show, and also screened it at 25 of its global flagship stores. IPads were passed out to customers, who could then get a closer look at the fashions and, wonder of wonders, purchase them through a custom-built app.

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