Angela Ahrendts said in her surprise exit statement that she was leaving Burberry in great shape. She mentioned a powerful management team, world-class supply chain, state-of-the-art technology and brand momentum. Modesty, or perhaps CEO etiquette, prevented her from saying just how instrumental Ahrendts has been in transforming the brand with the "check problem" into an international powerhouse.
She and Christopher Bailey – the self styled chief creative officer who will now take on the CEO role in addition to his creative duties – have made a crack team over the past seven years. Ahrendts, the Diet-Coke-swigging businesswoman from Indiana, and Bailey the softly spoken Yorkshireman with a penchant for indie music and technology. Fashion folklore has it that the two of them plotted their plans for the brand by scribbling on a napkin over lunch.
While Bailey worked on reinventing the trench and producing catwalk shows that – among other climate-inspired arty touches – rained petals on the models, Ahrendts went about the business of transformation. Within a year of her joining in 2006 she had sacked the entire Hong Kong design team and closed factories in New Jersey and the Rhondda Valley, south Wales, to centralise manufacturing in Castleford, West Yorkshire. She brought back licences in order to exercise tight control over the brand image and booked the megastars for the brand's campaigns – from Kate Moss to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. It was swift work, executed with a razor-sharp focus.