President and chief creative officer of Burberry, Christopher Bailey, has announced he will leave the company after 17 years. He will step down from the board in March 2018. The label gave no reason for his departure, nor did the designer state his next move, but commented that he was “excited to pursue new creative projects” while remaining “fully committed to the future success of this magnificent brand and to ensuring a smooth transition”.
“It has been the great privilege of my working life to be at Burberry,” he continued in a statement, “working alongside and learning from such an extraordinary group of people over the last 17 years. I do truly believe, however, that Burberry’s best days are still ahead of her and that the company will go from strength to strength with the strategy we have developed and the exceptional talent we have in place led by Marco (Gobbetti).”
Marco Gobbetti became chief executive in July 2016, taking over from Christopher Bailey who moved sideways to become CCO following pressure from shareholders to cut costs across the business. Bailey refocused on creative output while Gobbetti, who has managed Céline, Moschino and Givenchy, took over the financial side, and shares rose 8% on the day Bailey changed roles. There has also been reported contention over Bailey’s pay, which shareholders decreased from a proposed £5.4 million to £3.5 million this summer.
However the designer is credited with Burberry’s strong reputation during his tenure. “Burberry has undergone an incredible transformation since 2001 and Christopher has been instrumental to the company’s success in that period,” Gobbetti said in the company’s announcement today. “While I am sad not to have the opportunity to partner with him for longer, the legacy he leaves and the exceptional talent we have at Burberry give me enormous confidence in our future.”
Burberry chairman John Peace called Bailey “a unique talent and an exceptional person”.