Ever since Rose Marie Bravo turned Burberry into a billion dollar brand, more than doubling sales, the London-based heritage business has struggled to be a luxury leader in both size and positioning.
Under Ms Bravo’s tenure between 1997 and 2005, Burberry was seen as the UK’s answer to Ralph Lauren, where an upmarket image attracted an aspirational demographic that bought into a plethora of affordable check-infused products, from scarves and ties to small leather goods and of course outerwear, Burberry’s core category.
Even today, luxury shoppers are certainly privy to a Burberry trench, a product steeped in heritage, but compared to Louis Vuitton, Dior, Prada or any of the other major luxury houses, a Burberry bag, or even shoes, is not likely on their ‘want’ list. These are categories of opportunity.
Leadership changes in both its management and creative teams have attempted to boost Burberry to an equal footing with its contemporaries, but even as its sales increased, annual turnover for 2021-2022 was 2.8 billion pounds, they lagged comparable growth.
Rising prices and new streetwear aesthetic
In 2017, under chief Marco Gobbetti, the brand began a 5 year turnaround, which saw an increase in product prices to meet luxury levels and a change in aesthetic to streetwear after the hire of new creative director Riccardo Tisci. The preppy heritage image nurtured by Mr Tisci's predecessor, Christopher Bailey, was shed to attract a Gen Z customer, but in doing so it lost its characteristics of unique British identity and sales failed to achieve substantial growth. Mr Gobbetti has since returned to Italy to helm Ferragamo, another heritage brand that is undergoing a revamp.
Now under British leadership and creative management, Jonathan Akeroyd is near to completing his first year at Burberry’s helm. One of his first major shakeups was installing former Bottega Veneta creative director Daniel Lee to lead Burberry’s design. News of his appointment was met with positive investor response, boosting its shares. Both Mr Akeroyd and Mr Lee have an intrinsic understanding of Burberry’s DNA, and Mr Lee has an aspirational way with product design to create desirable must-have pieces alongside a strong knowledge of handbags and shoes, two potential growth categories for the business.
A new logo and image
Burberry dropped its first campaign under Mr Lee earlier this month, which saw subtle changes to its logo with a new typeface and an equestrian knight from its archives. The images featured a more lo-fi aesthetic with Vanessa Redgrave in a simple trench and turtle neck when compared to Mr Tisci’s more glamorous editorial and Gen Z-friendly images.
While the clothes in the campaign did not include Mr Lee’s designs, his first collection will debut at London Fashion Week on Monday, which is arguably the hottest ticket in town. Both investors and industry will be waiting to see the unfolding of Burberry’s bold new vision.