Burberry is set for a radical fashion makeover after announcing that its long-serving creative designer, Christopher Bailey, is leaving after 17 years with the luxury brand.
The British fashion house revealed that Mr Bailey, 46, will step down next March from the board but will continue to provide “full support” to Burberry’s team, which includes new boss Marco Gobetti, until the end of 2018.
Since joining Burberry 17 years ago as design director, Mr Bailey has been credited with helping to restore the fortunes of the British luxury brand and transforming it into a global fashion powerhouse. He was promoted from chief creative designer to chief executive and chief creative officer in 2014, after the highly respected Angela Ahrendts left for Apple.
However, Mr Bailey’s feted position in Burberry’s boardroom has seen the Yorkshire-born designer often face intense criticism in the City for the apparent flouting of corporate governance.
In 2014 a majority of investors voted against the company’s remuneration report after Mr Bailey was handed one-off award of shares worth nearly £15m.
Last March it was announced that Mr Bailey would relinquish his joint chief executive and chief creative role, handing over half of his duties to Marco Gobetti, who joined from Celine. Instead, Mr Bailey added a new title of “president” to his creative role for the same pay and perks, including a £440,000 clothing allowance.
Burberry announced that Mr Bailey will be surrendering around £16m in awards by deciding to leave the brand. It is understood that he will still receive his £1.1m salary and benefits which will mean he will walk away with around £10m in awards next year. Mr Bailey also owns 2.7m Burberry shares, which were worth £51m according to Burberry’s share price on Tuesday, closing down 1.04pc at £19.02.
Analysts at RBC said that they viewed Mr Bailey’s departure as a negative for Burberry given the designer’s “long track record and investors’ renewed hopes that the brand would regain its mojo as Mr Bailey would focus on his creative role since Marco Gobbetti took over”.
Mr Bailey said that he believed that “Burberry’s best days are still ahead”.
“It has been a truly inspiring place to work and the decision to leave was not an easy one. I am excited to pursue new creative projects but remain fully committed to the future success of this magnificent brand and to ensuring a smooth transition”, he added.
Mr Gobbetti, who formally took the reins as Burberry chief executive in July after a lengthy notice period from Celine, commented that he was “sad” not to have the opportunity to partner with Mr Bailey for longer.
Speculation about Mr Bailey’s replacement has linked Phoebe Philo, currently of Celine, with the job, although fashion insiders say that Burberry will be trying to replicate Gucci’s recent success of hiring an emerging talent, rather than an expensive, established name.
Mr Bailey’s departure follows revolving boardroom doors at Burberry which has seen the arrival of Mr Gobbetti and finance chief Julie Brown while former finance boss Carol Fairweather, chief operating officer John Smith and merchandising officer Paul Price have all left the business. Chairman John Peace has also signalled his intention to step down, although no date has been set.