Last night, Christopher Bailey serenaded London Fashion Week with his swan song for Burberry after 17 years at the helm. His final message was one of unity, creating a rainbow check within the classic Burberry check in support of the LGBTQ+ community – support the brand is following through on in a series of initiatives with trusts and organisations. “There has never been a more important time to say that in our diversity lies our strength and our creativity”, Bailey said.
The epic, 85-look collection was perhaps Bailey’s most experimental and creative to date, incorporating all the brand’s hits over the years, from trenches, windbreakers and Harrington jackets to scarves, caps and capes. The shapes and styles were decidedly more street, with oversized bombers emblazoned with BURBERRY / LONDON / ENGLAND in graffiti font, and shell suits with caps covered in the classic check which is now so famous. Bailey left no stone unturned with bold velour jumpers reading ‘Burberry of London’ in rainbow font and baggy red tracksuit bottoms slouched over checked penny loafers.
Famous for its show production as the biggest fashion house on the London schedule, the finale was a suitably spectacular rainbow light tunnel which the models walked underneath to the euphoric sound of Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. Cara Delevingne wearing a rainbow flag cape with beige check lining was the last out as the lyrics “Set me free” rang through. Bailey received a standing, dancing ovation as he took his bow, and we recalled Sarah Mower’s words in a recent feature on the designer in Vogue: “It’s time to stop and to say: Christopher, that was magnificent.”
Over the years, Bailey has delighted his guests with live music finales, featuring the likes of Alison Moyet, Paloma Faith and James Bay. When we talk of British fashion, we talk of its cultural context alongside film, music and art, and this crossover is where Bailey positioned himself during his time at Burberry. From Eddie Redmayne and Sam Riley to Emma Watson, Bailey had a habit of putting film stars in his campaigns, culminating in 2016 when he celebrated the brand’s 160-year heritage with a blockbuster film trailer entitled ‘Tale of Thomas Burberry’ starring Sienna Miller, Domhnall Gleeson, Dominic West and Lily James which was so compelling, fans were calling for a feature-length version.
“Oh, I think you never really look at the successes when you’re inside a company, because it’s always a hill you still have to climb,” he told Vogue, “you’ve never reached the summit. [...] As soon as you’ve finished a collection, you’re already in the next one. You’re always focused on the next thing, which I think is so amazing about this industry – it moves forward the whole time, I actually love the speed.”
As the first ever designer at a brand of Burberry’s scale to be named CEO and creative director, Bailey innovated the fashion industry, live streaming shows to the public before anyone else and installing the lightning quick ‘see now, buy now’ capability which enables fans to shop straight from the catwalk.