Burberry is not only London's most famous clothing label, it's one of Great Britain's most famous exports of any kind, including rock 'n roll. Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey, who has has headed the label since 2001, handles the seismic impact of his brand accordingly, ensuring that any Burberry experience is fully musical. Being a massive rock fan himself helps suit the job; he loves to give the music he loves a platform and context, be it on the runway, on a party stage, in an ad campaign, or even within the spirit of Burberry Prorsum's urbane, shapeshifting clothing. Bailey has defaulted into an interesting hyphenate role: internationally revered designer, the radiant beacon of British fashion, and, incidentally, an ad-hoc evangelist for new British indie music talents. What he sees and likes, he prosyletizes by (quite literally) by incorporating into the fabric of Burberry culture.
In anticipation of today's Burberry Spring 2012 show, Bailey speaks to Rolling Stone about how music has shaped him, how he shapes it, and the music that spurred the genesis of the new collection.
What did you grow up listening to and who are your heroes?
Music always has played an important part in my life, from a very young age, affecting the way I think and the way I express myself. The first gig I ever went to was Bob Dylan supported by Tom Petty.
Why is music particularly integral to Burberry under your creative direction?
Music is such a powerful way to express yourself and the energy of the brand and I think the two have always been connected. Whatever you are trying to say, whatever you are trying to create there is a sound or a lyric that just understands that perfectly and expresses it in exactly the way you want it to feel and that's quite powerful.
In what ways does music manifest itself visually in your collections?
I think music and fashion have a symbiotic relationship and they work so well together historically. When you start to get music with fashion together it gives you an energy and an attitude. It is something we’ve always felt very strongly about when we are doing big shows or big events. Music is so emotive and it’s something that really adds to the mood of the show and really heightens your senses and makes the clothes come to life.
You've developed strong relationships with particular bands – when did that start happening and what kind of platform does Burberry provide these acts?
Working with musicians makes our brand about more than just clothes: it's about stories, attitude, energy, emotion and the people who inspire us. Burberry has a long history with musicians: we have had some in our campaigns in the past and play at our events for example. I love that the things we do overlap and talk to all these different worlds. We have collaborated on so many projects with new and young emerging British bands over the years. We felt that with the great interaction that we have experienced with artofthetrench that we could collaborate with musicians and artists to put together an incredible group of ongoing acoustic sessions from some of the finest talent coming out of the UK and bring them to the broad global Burberry audience.
Do you see London as a hub of major musical creativity right now?
I am lucky to be in an environment where I discover new musicians, or end up talking about music. Word-of-mouth is very effective in London – often, while having dinner and talking with friends, I happen to learn about new names in British music. You also just need to be curious and enter the right websites. I am a great fan of YouTube, I believe it is one of the best things on the web. And also MySpace, Spotify and, of course, iTunes. Finally, there is still the pleasure to find an unknown album in a record store.
What can we expect for Spring 2012?
For the SS12 menswear show I was listening to Muse, Elvis Costello, U2 and Penguin Café Orchestra.
Stream Christopher Bailey's exclusive Spring 2012 guest DJ set for Rolling Stone below:
Christopher Bailey’s Top 10 Playlist:
1. Muse - "Butterflies & Hurricanes"
2. Keane - "Somewhere Only We Know" (for Burberry Acoustic)
3. U2 - "Unchained Melody"
4. One Night Only – "Chemistry" (for Burberry Acoustic)
5. Elton John – "Skyline Pigeon"
6. Dusty Springfield – "You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me"
7. Sam Beeton - "My Doll" (for Burberry Acoustic)
8. The Waterboys – "Trumpets"
9. Adele – "Someone Like You"
10. David Bowie – "Eight Line Poem"
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