Spotlight: Basic Burberry

New Yorkers may have lamented yesterday’s raincoat weather but Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey, a Londoner accustomed to May seeming more like March, must have felt right at home last night. He was in town to move the British legacy brand into their new Manhattan headquarters, and celebrate “Burberry Day”—a holiday officially recently ed by our fashion-friendly Mayor! On the occasion, the rain, unseasonable chill, and Dickensian fog that hung thick over midtown could not have been a more beautiful nuisance. After all, this is a brand renowned for their wet weather accessories. And last night the brand’s classic Supernova check was ubiquitous at the Palace Hotel, when over 300 guests, wrapped in chic trenches and huddled under umbrellas, gathered for a rooftop soiree to celebrate the first lighting of the Burberry building at 444 Madison Ave. With three sides of the impressive building boasting the iconic logo,  each of its eight letters five feet high and blindingly white, the crowd watched the building’s come alive and Manhattan’s skyline suddenly change—and improve. As Bailey told Interview, “Burberry has managed to affect the most iconic skyline in the world. This is huge.” (LEFT: CHRISTOPHER BAILEY. PHOTOS BY HANUK)

And as for the party? Indeed, last night’s party–aside from the usual cast of NYC fashion types and American stars like Claire Danes and Blake Lively—was dominated by the Young, Hot, and British, a handsome coterie which included quintessential Burberry model Lily Donaldson, actor and boy-about-town Orlando Bloom,  and London transplant Alexa Chung. Bailey’s friends, the band One Night Only, served as the evening’s guest performers. It was, as frontman and part-time Burberry model George Craig reminded everyone incredulously, “Their first US gig ever!” Not too shabby a venue. Alexa Chung proved herself a surprisingly adept DJ, playing primarily to tastes that run heavy on the Anglo tip.




I asked Bailey if he thought Burberry had evolved into a “rock n roll” brand under his direction this decade. “I think I have challenged the perceptions of what Burberry is. I love that everyone from royalty to rock stars now wear Burberry.” Bailey said proudly. It’s true: Everyone from Prince William to Jack Bevan from indie band Foals is clad in an armorial Burberry trench these days. Bailey cast Sam Riley in a Burberry campaign, after being inspired by his performance as Ian Curtis in Control. Joy Division proved a popular soundtrack last night.

But for all the quiffed hair-dos, studded leather, and post-punk anthems, guests enjoyed the decidedly more traditional British flourishes of the evening, too. Even the mini Shepherd’s pies–delicate comfort food, if you will—evinced a constant dialogue between tradition and innovation. Says Bailey, “We;re always evolving. Right now, people want something a little more familiar and reassuring. My challenge is to not make things too radical right now.” So, after navigating Burberry Prorsum through a phase of edgy aesthetic exploration, is return to the brand’s roots now in order? “I wouldn’t say I will be turning towards tradition,” Bailey corrects. “I am interested in creating reminders of tradition, to shine the different facets of the diamond of I believe Burberry to be. And this is a perfect moment to celebrate the Burberry iconography as part of the British cultural heritage. It’s a good time to go home.”

On that note, it seems fitting that Bailey will soon bring Burberry “home,” literally. To honor the British Fashion Council’s 25th Anniversary, he will present the Spring 2010 Prorsum womenswear collection during London Fashion Week in late September. Expect to see the iconic Supernova check made a major return in upcoming collections. “I started to incorporate it in the Fall 2009 collection, and I am excited to significantly revitalize the Supernova check in seasons to come. It’s time to bring it back. I love it.”

Apropos everything, Bailey declared, “Burberry is 153 years old,” he reflects, “We’ve weathered many storms. We’ll weather many more.”