Burberry CEO promises "incredibly strong brand image" for first Daniel Lee campaign
Burberry CEO Jonathan Akeroyd's declaration last week that the company would focus more heavily on its British heritage seems to have been no box-ticking statement with interviews he’s given since then highlighting just how important that focus will be.
There have been doubts around the British luxury brand in recent years, with analysts questioning whether there’s anything unique about it compared to other luxury brands around the world. And given the high respect that British craftsmanship and design still commands, Britishness is probably the key claim Burberry could make on this front.
But with an Italian CEO and Italian designer at the helm until recently, that wasn't something it was able to do, despite Marco Gobbetti and Riccardo Tisci making important strides in focusing more heavily on the highest-end luxury and winning over a new generation of young affluent shoppers.
Now Akeroyd is in charge, and with British designer Daniel Lee at the creative helm, the opportunity is huge and it looks like there could be more change than expected with a new brand image.
Akeroyd told The Times in an interview: “Daniel is thinking hard about who are the icons of Britain today, he’s got some really exciting ideas. I promise you, you’re going to see an incredibly strong brand image.”
The first fruits of Daniel Lee's output will be seen in January when a rainwear campaign launches.
Akeroyd is aiming for Burberry to be a £5 billion company (up from £3 billion today), to double sales of accessories and womenswear with accessories making up 50% of sales from the current 37%, and operating profit margins rising above 20%.
Lee's arrival is key with the former Bottega Veneta creative chief known for his ability to create hit accessories, especially handbags.
“Daniel has got a unique touch on accessories and to get to £5 billion, we need to have a much stronger accessories business. There will be a high level of expectation on Daniel’s first collection, people will want to see a change … we need smaller collections but a higher level of focus,” Akeroyd said.
Hopes are high that Akeroyd will be able to pull it off with the 55-year-old having already achieved some impressive feats during his time in the fashion sector. He went from being a buyer for Harrods aged 25 to its retail director and on its board by the time he was 31.
He also later led the turnarounds at Alexander McQueen and Versace. He was happy leading that business, but said that when he was approached by Burberry, he couldn't turn down the opportunity.
And it’s interesting that the Christopher Bailey time at Burberry, which had seemed consigned to history under his successor, is an inspiration for the new CEO.
“That was a really exciting era and Burberry can be a part of reigniting the 2022 version of that,” he told The Times, while acknowledging that, in many ways, the UK is very different now than it was back then. “Today Britain is much more cosmopolitan, there is a little bit more of an edge to it, a different spirit. There is a big opportunity for us to communicate in a different way.”
He added that the company needs to make more of the fact that some of its products such as its trenchcoats and cashmere scarves are still made in Britain.
As for the general view of Britain in the outside world — which has taken a knock since the Brexit vote and because of the apparent revolving door of prime ministers in recent periods — he’s quite upbeat.
“People still see the creative industries in the UK as being the best. I don’t want to give too much away, but we can play more on where we are and make people feel ‘hey, that’s a British brand — a cool British brand’,” he said.
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