Once settled in, Lee’s first priority was getting to know the team. He’s also been traveling – to Florence, where the company has a leather goods and shoe factory; to Castleford, in search of trenches; and to the archives, in the north of England, between London and Blyth. “I’ve been looking at the origins of the three elements of the brand, which are obviously plaid, cavalier and gabardine, and trying to understand what inspires us to move them forward.”
The brand was founded in 166 years ago, a then young Thomas Burberry started producing clothing to withstand the British weather. He invented gabardine, a tightly woven waterproof wool, about
. Functionality is a concept that Lee firmly grasps: “It’s really [about] meaningful design, innovation with a purpose, not just innovation for a new silhouette or a new structure or technology.” Thomas Burberry’s intent It’s about making clothes for people who are out there doing things,” he continued. “It’s more of a mindset that I’m trying to get myself into.”
When the conversation turns to actual fashion, Lee leans in. “Think about the trench coat—it’s been around for decades. So what’s a bag that stands the test of time like that trench coat? What’s a shoe? What’s a coat that’s legitimately living next to the trenches and will be around for a long time ?We’re thinking about the feeling of being outdoors,” he said. “It’s not necessarily about coats, it’s about warmth, touch and comfort. It’s about being on the move, not being weighed down. I’m really excited to start the winter show because I think it means a lot for Burberry. “
Lee is an outdoor sports enthusiast himself. In the year between Bottega Veneta and Burberry, he went to Botswana and Zimbabwe. “Botswana in particular is incredible,” he says, “because it’s one of the least populated countries on Earth. It grounds you in a way that you’re with the animals.” He’s also trekked twice to Machu Picchu and Cuba.
We don’t have to wait until the fashion show to get our first clue as to where Lee is headed. Last month, he teamed up with London-born photographer Tyrone Lebon to shoot his first Burberry campaign at Bottega Veneta. It presents Burberry classics through Lee’s lens and is scheduled to launch on all regular channels in early February. (It was a more traditional media strategy compared to the one he implemented at Bottega Veneta, who is known for deleting all Instagram content and then deactivating its account in favor of a “digital journal.”)