Riccardo Tisci was today announced as Burberry's new chief creative officer, news that was met with surprise by the fashion press – many of whom expected the role to go to Phoebe Philo, as had been much rumoured.
While few could honestly say that they foresaw the appointment, Tisci's arrival at the British fashion house is doubtlessly exciting. He couldn't be more different to his Burberry predecessor, Christopher Bailey, who, over his 17-year tenure, was known for bringing the label back to life through glossy campaigns and wearable, modern takes on British classics. Burberry's trench coats and heritage checks have all become desirable under Bailey's commercially-savvy reins.
Tisci, on the other hand, is known for his dark, subversive craftsmanship, for nose rings, non-conformity and seductive glamour. Where Bailey dressed the Duchess of Cambridge, Tisci created Kim Kardashian's form-fitting wedding dress. He was among the first contemporary designers to experiment with gender fluidity and streetwear; Tisci has always been decidedly ahead of his time. He also has experience in taking heritage fashion houses and reinventing its codes in an original, exciting way – his work at Givenchy, formerly associated the 50s and Audrey Hepburn - is case in point.
With that in mind, Tisci marks a very new era for Burberry. So what can we expect?
He'll elevate the brand to the echelons of the luxury food chain
Christopher Bailey is widely credited for changing Burberry's former market stall reputation and repositioning it as a luxury brand. However, the last few years haven't been as kind, with flagging sales in key markets such as China and the Middle East. Tisci is known as an artisan, creating exquisite womenswear, characterised by workmanship and gothic beauty. He offers artfully made couture with an urban, contemporary edge, but manages never to alienate older customers – no mean feat for any designer. What he does is luxury at its most beautiful and most relevant.
He will diversify Burberry's audience
Tisci counts Kim Kardashian, Rooney Mara, Rihanna, Jay-Z and Beyonce as fans. At Givenchy, he enabled the brand to appeal to a young, cool crowd, who were keen to save up for a Bambi sweatshirt worn by an influential celebrity. He was also way ahead on the luxury streetwear front (in fact, he was arguably the first to do so) – a move that initially prompted raised eyebrows from fashion purists. However, Givenchy logo sweatshirts and trainers were a huge success, both with celebrities and the public, talking to a wider audience than ever before. His luxe streetwear attributed to the designer's most recent appointment; a Burberry statement today said Tisci's "skill in blending streetwear with high fashion is highly relevant to today's luxury consumer".
He could give Burberry red carpet appeal
Tisci's overtly sexual, subversive designs have become a red carpet favourite with stars such as Beyonce, Cate Blanchett, Jessica Chastain and Rooney Mara. While Burberry is best known for its daywear staples, Tisci is perhaps one of few designers who could turn the label into a popular red carpet choice. It will be interesting to see how he translates his signature glamour to Burberry eveningwear.
He'll push Burberry boundaries
Tisci has always pushed boundaries. He sees no reason why men shouldn't wear skirts; he's happy to dabble in the controversial world of religious iconography; and long championed transgender models (most specifically Lea T) before any other label. He sent Madonna to the 2016 Met Ball in derriere-revealing chaps and Beyonce in a barely-there dress with embroidery to cover her modesty. What his boundary-smashing signatures mean for Burberry remains to be seen, but it'll certainly be exciting.
Burberry accessories will become all the more desirable
Givenchy's sleek handbags became a regular sighting on front rows, which bodes well for the same category at Burberry. The British brand's sales received a boost last year thanks to its leather goods – an area that is ripe for growth under Tisci, who is skilled at creating accessories that have sell-out appeal.