Oyster Interview: Burberry's Christopher Bailey
"I don't really like when there's too much chaos."
For our latest issue, Zac Bayly met up with Christopher Bailey, Creative Director at Burberry, the day after the label's London Fashion Week Spring 2013 presentation. Here is an extract of the interview. For the full story — pick up a copy of Oyster #101 now!
Zac Bayly: What was the concept behind Burberry's SS13 collection?
Christopher Bailey: Originally — kind of originally — I found these beautiful images, in the archives, of Burberry corsets and Burberry capes, and around the same time I'd been looking at really beautiful photographs by Norman Parkinson, and it just kind of got me thinking about this kind of sassier, sexier, slightly more playful kind of Burberry girl. And I wanted the collection to make you smile; I wanted it to be happy and joyous.
I thought you might have been eating a lot of candy, because it reminded me of really bright candy-wrappers.
Yeah, it was quite funny, because as we were putting the collection together, we kept saying the same thing: "It feels like little sweetie wrappers." It wasn't the intention, but there were lots of foils, lots of little transparent things, and these really bright satin colours. I wanted it to be sweet, but not saccharine-sweet. I wanted it to be kind of… juicy-sweet. And sassy.
Sassy is one of my favourite words.
That was kind of the word that I was thinking of. It wasn't about being sexy, but it was about being sassy — there's a real difference. And I wanted it to be a bit cheeky as well.
Is there anything exciting in your life right now that was reflected in the cheery mood of the collection? I imagine you must feel so intertwined with the brand by now.
I think I'm generally a pretty happy person. I've got wonderful things happening privately, and wonderful things happening professionally. You know, professionally, opening the Regent Street store has been a big thing for me.
I went yesterday — it's pretty amazing.
Did you go? Oh, good. Thank you. It's been a labour of love.
It took almost two years, didn't it?
It's taken about 18 months, but 18 months goes incredibly quickly. We conceptualised it, then designed it, then executed it. That's a pretty quick turnaround. It was a really ambitious project. It was something that I thought was very important — this kind of bridging everything we do online with a physical space. And I found it quite interesting, philosophically, going the other way. Normally things show up online that are permutations or versions of a physical experience, so it was kind of interesting to look the other way and say, "OK. We've now got this experience online, but everything we've got online doesn't actually exist physically — because it's video, or music, or it's an archive." So, it was like, "How can we flip this?"
I love how the images move seamlessly between the adjacent digital screens at the store — it's very 'portraits at Hogwarts'.
Yes! Yes! Were you there by any chance when every screen, at certain times of the day — suddenly every screen in the whole store changes to one thing? Basically, we shot all the girls and guys that we work with lots doing this [clicks his fingers frantically], and they all start doing this [still clicking] and they're rubbing their trench coats, and they jump on a wooden floor and it sounds like a crazy thunderstorm is happening outside.
I hope no one brings their little dog into the store.
Yes, exactly. But what we wanted is a store that entertains you and makes you smile. It's so important to punctuate life with smiles.
Architecture makes you happy, doesn't it?
Yeah. I've always loved it, and I've always done it privately. For the last 15, 17 years I've always had a personal building project.
So, do you like using your hands and being involved in that way, or do you prefer planning and being the mastermind?
Both. I'm definitely not a carpenter or an electrician or a plumber, as much as I would love to be. I don't have those skills. [Laughs]
Neither do I!
Few people do, I think, but I'm a huge fan of craft. And I love design, whether it's a pair of shoes or sunglasses or a watch or a chair or a building or a column or a staircase. I love the way that things work spatially, their function, the way that the light hits things… I love being able to have a vision, and I love detail. I'm very detail-oriented. Interesting thing: everything in the store has a big story. The big handles as you walk into the store? We didn't design those. They were designed for the building, in whenever it was… I should know the date… Oh my goodness…
A long time ago.
Yeah. Anyway, they were designed for the building but never made. So, we found the drawings and then we recreated them.
Where did you find the drawings?
Oh, there are lots of different places that you can find these things, like historic building societies…
I thought you meant that you found them in an old music-box tucked under a floorboard or something.
No! No! I wish.
This is an extract — full story in Oyster #101, on sale now!