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Burberry reborn: Classic brand plugs into cutting-edge service

December 29, 2014

Handbags are displayed in the new three-story home of Burberry, on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif. The newly constructed building has a VIP entrance and dedicated parking.

LOS ANGELES — Burberry has taken Beverly Hills by storm, just in time for the holidays.

In quick order, the label opened its first Rodeo Drive flagship, accepted a Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award and launched an L.A. version of its Art of the Trench campaign.

It’s all part of the vision of Christopher Bailey, who joined the brand in 2001, became creative director in 2004 and raised eyebrows when CEO was added to his title this year. Under Bailey, the nearly 160-year-old British heritage outfit known for trusty trench coats has been reinvigorated as a 21st century trendsetter and innovator. And the distinctive beige Burberry check, which fell out of favor in the early 2000s after it was overexposed and counterfeited, has been rediscovered by a new generation of celebs — Harry Styles, Olivia Palermo and Sarah Jessica Parker among them — who are bundling up this winter in monogrammed check scarves and blanket ponchos.

The four-story Rodeo Drive boutique features the full range of the label’s products for men and women, including its Prorsum, London and Brit collections, handbags and accessories, as well as a dedicated alcove for Burberry Beauty. There’s a VIP floor to cater to celebs, with a wraparound rooftop terrace that has views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Park. Also featured at the boutique is an exclusive Rodeo Drive collection for men and women that was created for the opening and that includes a gold sequin trench coat ($6,500), pleated tulle ball gown ($16,000) and denim tuxedo jacket ($1,595).

The space is designed according to Burberry’s "retail theatre" concept, with 10 video screens and 130 speakers to live-stream runway shows from London and display Burberry-created "fashion-tainment" content, such as the charming holiday ad campaign starring 12-year-old Romeo Beckham, the son of soccer great David Beckham and fashion designer Victoria Beckham. "We’re about imagery, bringing the product to life and storytelling," Bailey said of his vision, during a recent interview at the Beverly Hills store.

He directed the campaign’s short film, titled "From London With Love," which tells the story of a young boy and a romantic couple on a gifting journey in the streets of London. The film is complete with an original song by British songwriter Ed Harcourt and Old Hollywood-style choreography involving dapper lads, whirling tulle gowns and snow.

"We did something similar recently in Shanghai, where it was an all singing-dancing event with a huge set, and I wanted to try to fuse that into our Christmas campaign because it felt so joyous," Bailey explained, adding that he’s known the Beckhams for a number of years and considers Romeo "a mate." "I wanted the film to be something that transported you and made you smile. And there’s such a sweetness to Romeo, I wanted to make sure we captured that."

The Rodeo Drive space is also designed to merge the online and offline shopping experiences.

As a luxury retailer, Burberry has been on the forefront of digital innovation. It was the first brand to live-stream a fashion show and the first to offer online ordering straight from the runway. On Rodeo Drive, Burberry has put iPads in the hands of every sales associate to allow for personalized customer service based on past size and style preferences, one-day delivery of items not in store and mobile checkout.

"We never separate our sales (figures) for online and offline because it’s irrelevant," Bailey said. "Maybe customers research at home or on their mobile while they’re waiting for lunch, then they come into the store to make the transaction there. Or just as likely, they come into a store, then do the transaction at home after they’ve looked at what else is in their cupboard. So that blending of experiences is important. There are really no physical parameters because any store with an iPad can have as big an inventory as we like."

Keyed to the opening of the Beverly Hills store in November, Burberry received this year’s Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award and released an L.A.-themed Art of the Trench social media campaign featuring iPhone-portraits of tastemakers from the local creative class — including BAFTA/LA Chairman Nigel Daly, Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin and skateboarder/model Ben Nordberg — all dressed in Burberry.

The ongoing Art of the Trench project has garnered more than 24.8 million page views in more than 200 countries since launching in 2009. It’s just one of the initiatives that falls to Bailey’s creative media team, which he works with as closely as his design team. The group is also responsible for Burberry Acoustic, born out of Bailey’s love of music, a selection of new talents who receive exposure through special projects, events and Burberry fashion shows at London Fashion Week.

In London, Burberry’s headquarters reflects Bailey’s all-encompassing brand view. "What I’ve tried to develop is a design school," Bailey said. "You go into this space and you have guys writing (digital) code, and into another space where you have guys listening to music. And then you go into the design space and you have people hand-painting clothing. We have so many worlds in our pockets."

A huge part of Burberry’s turnaround over the last decade was former CEO Angela Ahrendts, one of the most respected and highest paid executives in the fashion industry, who left to join Apple as head of retail in May. Now, Bailey has to prove he can succeed at running the company, in addition to steering design, after becoming the first designer in a publicly traded fashion company to also be CEO.

"I don’t see it as two jobs," he said when asked about the new role. "I was doing so much of the strategy stuff before anyway. Having a title of CEO, of course I work more with our financial community, with analysts and investors, but essentially it’s about making sure that creativity, innovation and design remain the focus of everything, and that things are done with the right energy, passion and authenticity. Like I tell everyone, the customers are the ones we need to look after."

 

 



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