This Is Burberry

On a London street, a figure in a perfectly tailored coat appears. It’s drizzling, because this is London after all, but rainwater seems to roll off the one-of-a-kind gabardine material as if repelled by the refinement of the wearer. And then, a flash of the coat lining- it’s the iconic Burberry check. Of course it is. Throughout it’s 161-year history, Burberry has been a brand devoted to superior function and elegant form. Soldiers, adventurers, the royal family, and countless celebrities- Burberry has clothed them all. We dare you to find a brand more quintessentially British.

Basingstoke Beginnings

The brand’s history begins in 1856 when twenty-one year old draper’s apprentice Thomas Burberry opened his own outdoor clothing store in his hometown of Basingstoke. His great breakthrough came when he invented gabardine, the breathable, waterproof fabric that transformed rainwear. In 1891, Burberry opened a shop on Haymarket in London.


The First Burberry Store in Basingstoke via MaxMayo


Finding a Purpose in the Early Twentieth Century

In 1911 Burberry outfitted Arctic explorers Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton. But the mission of Burberry changed at the dawn of WWI. Burberry began outfitting British officer in gabardine coats, which became known as “trench coats”- because soldiers wore them in the trenches. As peace reigned and Europe entered the 1920s, Burberry introduced the “Burberry check” to the lining of its trench coats.


The WWI Burberry Trench Coat via Old Magazine Articles


By the 30s, Burberry expanded into making aviation garments, outfitting A.E. Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green for their record-breaking flight from London to Cape Town in “The Burberry” plane, which was sponsored by the brand. Explorers and British officers popularized the Burberry brand- all wise moves from PR savvy Thomas Burberry. In WWII, Burberry clothed both soldiers and civilians. The storied association with explorers and the British military had made Burberry synonymous with British patriotism.


A.E. Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green in Burberry via Sywell Aerodrome


Adapting to High Fashion

The 1960s were turbulent times, and Burberry rolled with the changes, bursting into fashion by combining traditional style with a modern aesthetic. The classic trench coats became sexy and sophisticated. You could find Burberry on Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and on model Bridget Bardot.


Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's via TheSkinnyStiletto


 But the 1970s and 80s were when Burberry became one of the most coveted brands in the world. Burberry began making clothing outside of outerwear, with fashion accessories to complement their new lines. You could even spot the royal family decked out in Burberry.


Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales 1983 via The Daily Mail


A Rut and a Revival

In the 90s, Burberry secured It Girl Kate Moss for their ad campaigns as the brand put a youthful gloss on their classic clothing. But from the late 90s to the mid 2000s, Burberry acquired an unsavory reputation. The brand became popular with chavs, to the point that two pubs in Leicester banned anyone wearing Burberry. Burberry had become a caricature of Englishness, and then had its class stripped away. Very few wanted to be associated with a brand stuck in such a rut.


Kate Moss for Burberry via Pinterest


Enter Christopher Bailey as creative director and Angela Ahrendts as CEO. They initiated a major brand makeover. Burberry snapped up Emma Watson and Cara Delevingne and removed the famous “Burberry check” from most of its products, determined to lose the chav-y vibe. In 2010 the brand also created “Burberry Acoustic,” a collaboration with up-and-coming young British music talent. Between the right spokes-models and great social media outreach, Burberry has successfully entered the 21st century as a brand once again synonymous with polished British cool.


Emma Watson for Burberry 2009 via Marie Claire


To cap off its 160-year anniversary, Burberry launched an ad campaign of glamorous mini-movies celebrating the long history of the brand. Cheers, Burberry! Here's to many more.



Image Sources

Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss for Burberry via The Daily Mail

 The First Burberry Store in Basingstoke via MaxMayo

 The WWI Burberry Trench Coat via Old Magazine Articles

 A.E. Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green in Burberry via Sywell Aerodrome

 Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s via theSkinnyStiletto

Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales, 1983 via The Daily Mail

Kate Moss for Burberry 1998 via Pinterest

Emma Watson for Burberry 2009 via Marie Claire