Is Christopher Bailey Worth It?

In fashion it is commonly said that a designer is only as good as their last collection, and that there is always someone, somewhere, willing to do a lot more for a lot less in return. Christopher Bailey, who became Creative Director of Burberry in 2001, and was named Chief Executive Officer last October, is single-handedly proving the cynics wrong. Despite the fact that 53 per cent of shareholders voted against the company’s latest remuneration report, Bailey, 43, is set to become one of the wealthiest creative directors in the fashion industry. His latest pay package, including salary and stock options, is valued at up to £27 million.

Christopher Bailey replaces former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, who joined technology giant Apple as senior vice president of retail and online stores. Cute picture, no?

Christopher Bailey replaces former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, who joined technology giant Apple as senior vice president of retail and online stores. Cute picture, no?

Christopher Bailey’s pay package includes a £1.1 million base salary, a £440,000 annual allowance for an undisclosed purpose, and a one-off, performance-based grant of 500,000 shares, which is worth approximately £7 million in today’s market. Bailey also received 350,000 shares in 2010, and an additional one million shares in 2013 when he became CEO of the company, worth a combined £19 million. “The message to Burberry is loud and clear: multimillion-pound pay packages are obscene, unnecessary and will damage the economy in the long-term,” said Deborah Hargreaves, director of the High Pay Centre. “If those at the top are seen to grab such vast rewards while wages stagnate for everybody else, it completely undermines public faith in business.” Burberry Chairman Sir John Peace, however, defended the company’s generosity, citing Christopher Bailey’s aggressive push to the digital realm, and successful hauling and restructuring of brand licenses, as some of the key drivers to Burberry’s success. Moreover, he admitted that there have been many competing job offers coming Bailey’s way, and that to lose a CEO and creative director in one fell swoop would have been disastrous.

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Quote: Anna Wintour’s Fashion Advice

Last month Dazed Digital published an article with a rather sensational headline: “Anna Wintour has some harsh fashion advice for fashion students.” I’ve received some questions from my friends and followers regarding this article, with requests to turn it into a post of some kind. Before opening the link, I was expecting to read an elitist and disdainful story by a woman who used her father’s connections (Charles Wintour, a wealthy newspaper editor in the UK) to propel herself into the publishing world. But I was surprised to find that, despite the headline, the advice that Anna Wintour offered was not particularly “harsh”; in fact, most of it was very rational and realistic, which, as editor-in-chief of American Vogue, isn’t exactly her forte. She seems to live in her own world most of the time.

Anna Wintour is finally starting to make sense to me.

Anna Wintour is finally starting to make sense to me.

I suppose the point of this blog post is not to illustrate how distanced she is from the struggles of common fashion folk, although that’s always a fun to do. Today I want to dig a little deeper and explore these quotes with a balanced mix of curiosity and cynicism. All of Anna Wintour’s quotes have been written in bold.

“I do think there is a tradition in England, that you can do anything with nothing…The only thing I worry a little bit about, going straight from school to starting your own business, is not that many succeed… I personally would advise you to think carefully before you start your own business, and consider possibly working for a designer or a company whose work you admire.”

There’s a lot to break down here. I think the most important myth to address is the one that anybody in England can come from modest beginnings and still achieve success, if their talent is great enough to sustain itself over ten years or more in a design studio. People who perpetuate this myth often cite Alexander McQueen and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey as examples (and they’re good ones!). However, as Alexander Fury from The Independent wrote, student debt is increasing, even for a bachelor’s degree. The path from student to designer isn’t as clear as it used to be, but all the great designers that are working today–Phoebe Philo, Raf Simons, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Marc Jacobs–all worked for other designers before they found their own fame. They didn’t just throw a party one night and called themselves designers, which seems to be the way that many celebrities think it works. If we could only figure out how to protect fashion interns from being exploited for their labour…

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Chanel Fall 2014 Couture

I usually hate the word “pretty” but there isn’t really any other word for what I saw here. It was white and pretty–elegantly so. There were a whopping 70 looks in this collection, but that I didn’t mind. There were also several of those rounded necklines that make it look like the models’ heads have been pushed through straws, but I didn’t mind that either. And of all 70 models, I counted only 7 or 8 models of colour. That still bothers me, of course, especially as a predominantly white collection (the colour of the fabric, I mean) would have looked even more incredible against darker skin tones. Regardless, the clothes looked great. Really, really great. The skirts were beautifully molded, the shoulders and sleeves were sculptured, but not severe; and even then everything was so light and airy. The only thing missing from some of these dresses is Daphne Guinness’s body.

I love…

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A dress with embellished borders.

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Christian Dior Fall 2014 Couture

I’m glad that most people have stopped comparing Raf Simons and John Galliano with each other. It got really boring, really quickly. Personally, I’m more concerned with how Raf Simons fares in competition with himself because lord knows some of his work can be repetitive. If some of the looks had been edited out (why do designers keep presening collections with 60+ looks?!) I wouldn’t have been so cranky by the end of my style.com preview. This was a nice collection. Really nice, actually. Possibly his loveliest and most cogent couture collection to date.

I love…

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This gorgeous cross pleating.

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Atelier Versace Fall 2014

I think I expected all of this: tight dresses, sweeping skirts, and lots and lots and lots of skin. That’s the Versace we know and (used to) love. But I’m not enamoured of Donatella Versace’s brash brand of sexy anymore, and as I write this quick post I am starting to wonder why I didn’t just skip to the next show on style.com’s couture schedule. There was an interesting one-legged jumpsuit in this collection that could have inspired a metaphor about how Versace has one leg (the bare one, of course) ahead of the game, while the other is lagging behind in the shadows of its past. But I can’t seem to string the words together, so I’m just left here with ideas but no clever way to articulate them. Kind of like Versace, no? There were some good ideas in this collection. Too many, perhaps. And they all crashed into each other and it became a big gaudy mess. I’ll stop here before this post becomes one, too.

I love…

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These layered panels. This has all the elements of a tacky mess, but it somehow works.

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Schiaparelli Fall 2014 Couture

In eighth grade my friends kept a secret from me for almost six months. I can’t remember what it was (probably some juvenile crush), but I remember feeling incredibly frustrated whenever they whispered to each other and passed notes around in class. I also felt this strong sense of betrayal–they were my friends, and they actively kept me out of the circle of knowledge for some silly reason. This week, that sense of betrayal and frustration has returned. I feel like everyone is making this huge deal of Schiaparelli’s revival and I just don’t get it. At all. Is there something I’m missing here? Is this really meant to change the future of fashion, or at least the future of Schiaparelli? I had to double check if Marco Zanini studied under Jean Paul Gaultier at some point in his career because a lot of these designs look like poor imitations of Gaultier’s work. Scary.

I love…

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Some relatively normal graphic work.

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Love: Lanvin Spring 2015 Menswear

I want to be the kind of guy who has the kind of money to buy the kind of clothes made by Lanvin. They’re just beautiful. This year I have developed a stronger interest in how I dress and present myself to the world, because as I get older I realise just how desperately I want people to take me seriously. I turned 21, earned my first degree, quit my first job, and secured another one shortly after that, and none of that would have been possible without a keener sense of self-awareness and self-presentation. It’s quite exhausting, if I’m to be completely honest, but it’s also a necessary part of living in a society where young people are forced to learn how to market themselves if they want to be independent.

Without sounding too morbid, I now know that I am all I have. From an early age I taught myself to be comfortable in solitude. I was never particularly shy, but my movements and mannerisms were constantly being policed that I never felt genuinely me (growing up gay in a conservative neighbourhood was a blast, though). Clothes made up for that because it was one of the few elements of my appearance that I felt like I could physically control. In hindsight, I made a lot of ugly decisions (ages 14 to 16 were just brutal) but getting rid of half my wardrobe last month was a glorious experience. The ghosts are gone.

As someone who always has trouble choosing things in stores, it’s nice to feel like a designer understands me (but evidently not my financial situation). This collection could have been designed for me, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The universe is coming into alignment. It’s good to know that an ancient French couture label can still make slick, sophisticated clothes that look so mature and still so accessible.

I love…

A dishevelled business look.

A dishevelled business look.

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