When Riccardo Tisci took over as the creative director of Burberry, people expected a change.
Judging by the brand’s first collection under Tisci’s purview, they got it. Tisci’s direction has permeated every aspect of Burberry, from the designs on the runway to the way those products are marketed.
Tisci’s first major collection for Burberry debuted on the runway on Monday, blending some of Burberry’s classic looks and silhouettes with Tisci’s streetwear-inflected style that he perfected at Givenchy. But it is the marketing surrounding this new rebrand that marks the biggest overhaul for Burberry.
The approach Tisci has taken to marketing this new collection is eclectic and aggressively focused on pursuing young consumers through digital and streetwear-inspired marketing techniques. In the past week, Burberry has utilized the streetwear-approved drop model, sold an exclusive collection through Instagram and WeChat, and partnered with street fashion media brand Highsnobiety for a creative takeover of its social channels and web presence.
The brand worked with Highsnobiety to “hack” the site, taking over Highsnobiety’s Twitter and Instagram channels and its website, plastering it with Burberry imagery. The brand even wrapped the latest issue of Highsnobiety’s print magazine in a plastic covering emblazoned with the “TB” (paying homage to the brand’s founder, Thomas Burberry) Burberry pattern.
More than anything else, this collaboration between Burberry and Highsnobiety is emblematic of the new direction Tisci is taking the brand. Burberry could have easily worked with Vogue or done a takeover of some more traditional luxury outlet, but Tisci is clearly a sensing a change in the wind, targeting a streetwear and sneaker site as a focus for the promotion of Burberry’s new iteration.
“After Burberry had a change in creative direction, they approached us around the end of spring looking for creative work around this launch,”said Jeff Carvalho, managing director of North America at Highsnobiety. “They were coming to us because of our audience and because our audience is a bit younger.”
The streetwear inspiration permeated to the brand’s new business model. Earlier this week, Burberry did a surprise drop of a small collection of T-shirts called The B Series. The collection was available only through Instagram, WeChat and the brand’s store in London. The abrupt drop of the collection, followed by a period of intense hype and a quick emptying of all the stocks, is a move straight out of the streetwear playbook.
“In my view, it’s not so much about the drop model as it is about the changing retail landscape,” Carvalho said. “For better or worse, what you see on the runway gets shared around the world and people pine for it immediately. One of the side effects of fashion is that people move on to the next thing quickly. That’s why the see-now, buy-now model is important. What the drop model does is it gets a consumer to return regularly, week after week. It’s a way to keep customers hooked.
Earlier this year, Burberry CFO Julie Brown said these frequent, surprise drops of smaller capsule collections like The B Series would be an integral part of Burberry’s strategy going forward. Drops, despite having their origin in Japanese streetwear business models, fit perfectly with luxury’s focus on exclusivity. If you miss out on a drop like The B Series, you may never be able to find a piece from it.
While the strong emphasis on digital marketing efforts is not new for Burberry (former creative director Christopher Bailey oversaw Burberry’s transformation into one of the top digital luxury brands in the world, as ranked by groups like L2 and CPP Luxury), the more wholehearted embrace of the drop model and selling through channels like Instagram and WeChat are.
Tisci’s new spin on Burberry is nothing if not decidedly younger-feeling than the brand has ever felt before. While Bailey introduced graffiti prints and bold colors to Burberry in his last few collections, and started the brand on its path toward being a digital dominator, Tisci’s commitment to all things young and hip is taking the brand in a bold new direction.
“Luxury is getting younger,” Carvalho said. “There’s a lot of conversation about who the new younger luxury consumer is. We are at a place now where, more than ever, what’s happening on the streets and what’s shared on social media has a real effect on what big fashion houses do. Luxury houses understand that they have to be able to reach these young consumers.”