New York fashion guru Ed Burstell on making Liberty a success

LIBERTY chief Ed Burstell has lived in London for seven years, but his inner New Yorker is never far away, finds Lynne McCrossan

Ed Burstell

Ed Burstell, managing director of Liberty, is a legend in shopping circles. Starting off as a spritzer boy on the shop floor of Macy’s New York, he rose up the ranks in several Manhattan stores and ended up at Bergdorf Goodman before being lured to Liberty as buying director. There were stints in rehab along the way, too – the man has most certainly lived.

“I didn’t jump at the job initially, I wanted to make sure I could really do things my way and have their backing. Ultimately I knew I had to make bold changes. After all, it’s your name and head on the line if things don’t work out.”

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Once terms were nailed down, Burstell made the move across the pond and has called London home ever since - turning the fate of the then-failing department store.

As we walk down a busy London street at a Usain Bolt-like pace, his inner New Yorker is never too far away. “For goodness sake Lynne, give me your bag.” I shrug off his chivalrous offer, but he completely ignores my faux “I’m fine” and removes it from my arm.

It’s in generous moment like these that I get the measure of the man. He isn’t scared to get his hands dirty, help someone out or graft.

Over lunch, it becomes abundantly clear why he has found success and longevity in the fickle world of fashion. “It’s about understanding your customer. You can’t be all things to all people.” The art of curation has certainly worked for him alongside his approachable nature. It is in this moment that he tells me of his love for one of our own shopping icons, Jenners. “A few years back we were considering another store and I fell in love with Jenners. It has the same vibe internally as Liberty so it pulled my heart strings, but it just wasn’t meant to be.” This left me feeling a little gutted – the thought of Ed working his magic on Edinburgh’s beloved old dame would be something worth watching.

• In conversation with Ed Burstell is on Tuesday, 10 November, 6.30pm at Edinburgh College of Art. For tickets, go to At Liberty: From Rehab to the Front Row by Ed Burstell is out now.