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A leader creates work culture for staff to excel

business Updated: Jul 31, 2013 23:09 IST
Vinod Nair

Burberry Kisses started with the idea of giving technology a heart, and using it to enable people to express their love to each other across the globe by telling a story that makes the digital personal, says Christopher Bailey, chief creative officer of Burberry who, in his field of work doesn’t restrict himself just to fashion designing and leads many such projects as Burberry Foundation, Burberry Acoustics and designing stores and offices for his brand.


In an interview with Hindustan Times, he says the ability to lead his team comes from creating happy environment where everybody is functioning in a pleasant situation. Excerpts:

What do you think are the essential qualities of a leader, especially in the fashion/luxury world?
I feel that regardless of the field that you are in, the qualities that a leader should possess should be the same. For me a leader must have compassion, ability to understand the team that he/she is heading and create a happy and pleasant working environment around him/her so as to make the team members to perform and deliver nicely and comfortably.

What works for a leader? Elusiveness of designer Martin Margiela, popularity of Giorgio Armani or the way Tom Ford positions himself?
Well, they all are leaders in their own respective areas of work in the fashion and luxury industry. Various people have various means through which they reached their positions in their careers. For me, my ability to lead my team comes from a happy environment where everybody is functioning in a pleasant situation. As for personal traits of leaders, as you know, all leaders have different traits and in some way or the other it worked for every one.

Who is that one leader who remains in your mind all along?
I must say that one man whom I hold in reverence for his leadership qualities is our chairman Sir John Peace. I have always tried to imbibe his compassion and understanding along with his ability to steer the brand to greater heights.

Unlike most other fashion designers, you always took several steps ahead when it comes to designing… you never stopped at clothes but lead yourself onto other areas?
When it comes to designing, I believe that it is the same for everything. Other than designing the collections, I have also designed Burberry’s headquarters, the Horseferry House, in London, North America and Japan in addition to our flagship store at Regent Street London. In fact, soon Horseferry House II will also be operational here in London.

Joining hands with Google for Burberry Kisses was another attempt from your brand to lead the industry into innovations?
Well, I must say that Burberry Kisses project has been an interesting and rewarding experience. After having conceptualised it, it took me about three months to execute it through Google. Burberry Kisses, as you know, is the result of my attempt to bring in emotions in the world of technology... here one can send a kiss to his/her loved ones around the world and on the Burberry Kisses site map you could see the envelopes flying around from one city to the other around the world.

And when I see the children sending kisses to their parents, it makes me happy.

What prompted you to go for such an innovation with Google?
Burberry Kisses is designed to entertain and engage global audiences through personalised and beautifully-rendered content. Part of Google’s ‘Art, Copy & Code’ initiative, it reflects a shared vision of humanising technology through emotive digital experiences.

Burberry Kisses began with the idea of giving technology a bit of heart and soul, and using it to unite the Burberry family across the world by telling a story that makes the digital space personal.

For the past few years, particularly the past couple of years, you have been trying to lead the men’s tailoring side?
Yes, that’s correct. We have been emphasising on the men’s tailoring side in the recent past and this is one area which I want to strengthen further. Here we offer hand-finished suits in over 40 fabrics through new interpretation of such classic patterns as Prince of Wales checks, herringbones, Houndstooth and Pin Stripes.

We have introduced in-store tailoring services where a tailoring specialist will take the customer through the collection and after the selection the suit will arrive in the store in 48 hours. All suits are made in Italy.

Made in Italy is bit of a surprise for an English brand like Burberry… does that mean you believe that Italians are leaders in men’s tailoring? Savile Row in London is world-famous for men’s tailoring?
Well, the suits are designed here at the Burberry headquarters. And then tailored in Italy. This is not to say that we don’t have the ability to tailor our suits. English tailoring is well known and appreciated the world over. But, I believe that each part in the making of a suit must be handled by specialists regardless of their base.

You design both men’s and women’s collections… which is more exciting and challenging for you?
Like I said before, design per sé is exciting and challenging enough for me. While designing for both menswear and womenswear; for me the essential part is that of designing. And it’s exciting for me to do both!

What was the best decision that you have taken in your career?
I would say that my decision to join this brand was the best decision I have taken. It has been quite challenging, enjoyable and at the same time rewarding for me personally…

And the worst?
Frankly, I can’t seem to think of any.