Burberry Fashion – A Designer British Brand


Luxury British Fashion since 1856

View Burberry Fashion collections on London Fashion Review Blog

Burberry Fashion Label

History of the Burberry Brand

The origins of global fashion giants, Burberry are surprisingly humble. It started over 150 years ago, in 1956, with a young draper’s assistant by the name of Thomas Burberry opening a small outfitters shop in Basingstoke, England. Innovations, such as the ‘Garbardine’ fabric and the invention of the trench coat saw the brand gain popularity throughout the 19th century. An association with the world’s leading adventurers, two Royal Warrants and extensive overseas expansion further increased the brand’s popularity and profile throughout the 20th century. However, Burberry was to face a setback at the dawn of the new millennium.

In the early 21st century, Burberry underwent a re-branding after becoming heavily associated with the football firms of the 1990’s and the ‘chavs’ that followed. The drastic shift in clientele came as a surprise to Burberry and prompted a change in operations to improve the brand’s image as a premium, high-end fashion label. The brand started selling in luxury department stores and Burberry flagships throughout the world. Additional image improvements came with advertisements in well-respected magazines including GQ, Esquire, Vogue, Tatler and Harpers Bazaar. The new-wave of advertisements featured well-known British faces such as Kate Moss, Agyness Deyn, Jourdan Dunn and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, who was named the face of Burberry’s Autumn/Winter 2009 campaign and the cover model for the Spring/Summer 2010 campaign.

Kate Moss modelling for British brand Burberry

Kate Moss Modelling for Burberry

As of 2011, the Burberry label is firmly back on track with each of its 5 brands, Burberry London, Burberry Brit, Burberry Prorsum, Burberry Sport and Thomas Burberry posting profits. The brand is truly global with a successful e-commerce site and stores in countries in each of the world’s continents.

Burberry Tartan Check

The famous Burberry tartan check

The Burberry Fashion Label: A Timeline Snapshot

  • 1856: The Burberry brand is founded when 21-year-old Thomas Burberry, a former draper’s apprentice, opened a small outfitter’s shop on Basingstoke, Hampshire, England.
  • 1870: Thomas Burberry’s small outfitter’s shop had expanded into an ‘emporium’ thanks to a loyal Burberry following, attracted to the outerwear offerings, commitment to quality, and use of innovative fabrics.
  • 1880: Burberry’s innovative breathable, tear-proof and weatherproof fabric, ‘Garbardine’, is introduced.
  • 1891: The label is now trading as Thomas Burberry & Sons. The brand opens a shop London’s Haymarket. The shop remains there to the present day and acted as the Burberry headquarters for over 100 years.
  • 1895: The brand develops the ‘Tielocken’, the predecessor to the trench coat, which became to be adopted by British officers during the Boer War.
  • 1901: The Equestrian Knight Trademark appears for the first time accompanied by the Latin word ‘Prorsum’, meaning forwards, and was registered as a trademark.
  • 1911: Norwegian explorer, Captain Roald Amundsen, was equipped by Burberry when he was the first ever man to reach the South Pole. The brand later equipped explorer, Ernest Shakleton, who led the 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica.
  • 1914: The brand is commissioned by the War Office to adapt the officer’s coat ‘Tielocken’ to meet the combat requirements of World War I. Epaulettes and ‘D’ rings were added and the ‘trench coat’ was born.
  • 1920: The Burberry Check, registered as a trademark, was introduced as a lining to the trench coat.
  • 1937: Burberry, with its specialisation in aviation garments, sponsored A. E. Clouston and Betsy Kirby Green when they made the fastest flying time to Cape Town from London.
  • 1955: Burberry is awarded with a Royal Warrant by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Also this year, Burberry’s independence ends when it was taken over by Great Universal Stores.
  • 1989: Burberry is granted its second Royal Warrant by HRH the Prince of Wales.
  • 2001: Christopher Bailey is appointed as the brand’s Creative Director.
  • 2002: The brand launched its exclusive initiative ‘Art of the Trench’, a made to order trench coat service. In July of this year, Burberry Group PLC was floated on the London Stock Exchange. Great Universal Stores were to divest their remaining shares in Burberry a few years later in 2005.
  • 2006: Burberry’s Chief Executive Officer, Rose Marie Bravo, retires and is replaced by Angela Ahrendts.
  • 2008: The charitable organisation, the Burberry Foundation is launched.
  • 2009: Burberry moves to a new 160,000 sq ft headquarters at Horseferry House in London.
  • 2010: In a successful use of social media, this year saw the launch of the Burberry Acoustic Project in which, Burberry Acoustic music plays alongside content on the Burberry clothing collections. The Burberry Acoustic project showcases “young British bands that Burberry believes in”. Additionally, patrons can watch videos of the bands performing acoustic songs and wearing clothes from Burberry’s collections. Also this year Burberry made history as the first fashion label to broadcast its catwalk show live in 3D. The Autumn/Winter 2010 collection was streamed from five simultaneous private events in New York, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and Los Angeles.

Burberry Designer Clothing - British Fashion

  • 2011: Victoria Secret model and 2011’s world’s sexiest woman, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is featured in Christopher Bailey’s first Burberry Body campaign. Photographed by world-renowned photographer Mario Testino, the provocative advertisment features Rosie Huntington-Whiteley posing in just a trench coat. Rosie said of the campaign “It’s a huge honour to be working with Burberry again, a brand that put my career on the map and helped launch me, to be asked to be the first ‘Burberry Body’ is an amazing compliment.”

Burberry Body Rosie Huntington Whiteley

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in the First Burberry Body Campaign.

The Art of the Trench

In 2001, to celebrate their iconic trench coat, Burberry launched the ‘Art of the Trench’ initiative, a made to order trench coat service. An accompanying website soon followed as a living document of the trench coat and the people who wear it. The project is a collaboration between Burberry and some of the world’s leading image makers including Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist. Additonally, Burberry patrons are invited to submit portraits of themselves and their friends wearing their Burberry trench coats. Burberry regularly selects their images from those submitted for feature on the ‘Art of the Trench’ website, creating a body of images reflecting personal style from across the globe.

Burberry and Social Media

Burberry are one of the many British fashion labels currently exploiting the power of social media, which they seem to be taking to the next level. Moments before the models for their Summer 2012 collection hit the runway at London Fashion Week in September of 2011, Burberry staged a ‘Tweekwalk’. in which the label premiered every look in the collection. The initation gained an astronomical amount of interest, with both Burberry and Chief Creative Officer, Christopher Bailey, trending globally. Conversation surrounding Burberry peaked at 4pm, hitting number two on global trending charts and breaking Burberry’s personal mentions-per-minute record.

A spokesperson for Burberry, said the initiative was such a success thanks to a series of ‘Twitter Takeovers’ on Burberry’s regional accounts, a spokesperson for the company tells us. Among the participants were Işın Görmüş, editor in chief of Elle Turkey, who tweeted on behalf of Burberry Turkey; Daria Shapovalova of Vogue Russia for Burberry Russia and Julia Juyeon Kang, editor in chief of Elle Korea who tweeted for Burberry Korea.

In addition to their ‘Tweetwalk’, Burberry streamed the London Fashion Week experience on its website, to its 8.4 million Facebook fans and 20,000 YouTube subscribers, as well as at more than 45 of its retail locations. The live stream featured red carpet interviews and shots from multiple panning angles.

Creative Director: Christopher Bailey

Prior to his appointment at Burberry as Creative Director in 2001, Christopher Bailey did stints as the Senior Designer of Womenswear at Gucci (1996-2001) and Womenswear Designer at Donna Karen (1994-1996). He was instrumental in the re-branding of Burberry, that took it from a brand associated with ‘chavs’ back to a premium, highly-desired fashion label. As recognition of Bailey’s outstanding contribution to the brand, in 2009 he was appointed in the newly created position of Chief Creative Officer of Burberry. Bailey became responsible for the design of all Burberry collections and products, as well as being in control of all advertising, corporate art direction, multimedia content and overall brand image.

In his new role, Bailey has recently overseen the design and development of the 160,000 square foot Burberry Global Headquarters at Horsferry House in London in 2009. As well as the 68,000 square foot Burberry Americas Headquarters at 444 Madison in New York and the new Burberry Headquarters in Ginza, Tokyo in Japan.

“Horseferry House is so much more than a building. It’s very symbolic of the company…We have so much momentum and energy bubbling over right now and I wanted to unify the creativity and the dynamic attitude of all the employees that are driving this company forward.” – Christopher Bailey.

Christopher Bailey has also been a prolific award winner, boosting not just his own profile, but also the profile of Burberry as a brand. Some of Bailey’s recent accolades include:

  • Menswear Designer of the Year, British Fashion Awards in 2007 and 2008.
  • Designer of the Year, British Fashion Awards in 2005 and 2009.
  • International Award, Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2010.

Additionally, Bailey received an MBE in the Birthday Honours List for his services to the Fashion Industry, in 2009

Emma Watson for Burberry Fashion label

Emma Watson for Burberry

Burberry Financial Information

Burberry’s focus on non-apparel has paid off as their profits for the 12 months to the end of March 2011 were £296m, up 40% on a year ago, with revenues up 27% to £1.5bn. The non-apparel sector accounted for nearly half of all of its sales growth. Additionally, Burberry raised its full year dividend by 43% to 20p a share.

2010 saw Burberry returning to profit after opening further international stores, closing loss making stores and investing more in online marketing. Burberry stores in London were particularly successful thanks to favourable currency movement and increased tourism. Burberry reported pre-tax profits of £166m for the 12 months to March 2010. The previous year the brand had made a loss of £16.1m, hit by charges at its Spanish operations. Sales for the 2010 financial year rose 7% to £1.28bn, with the company recording double-digit sales growth in Europe and Asia Pacific.

The first quarter of the 2011 financial year to 30th June saw fortunes continue to improve for the Burberry brand, with total sales revenues creasing by a third, beating all analysts’ forcasts as global demand for luxury products showed no sign of declining. The British brand saw a 34% jump in total revenue to £367 million in the first quarter. Underlying retail revenues  increased by nearly 50% on the same period last year, to £245 million.  The acquisition of 50 francise stores in China has been a smart move on Burberry’s part with the Chinese market contributing 20% of the 50% leap in underlying sales. Additionally, in the first quarter, Burberry’s Asia-Pacific unit registered the biggiest increase with revenues up 67% to £121 million – Europe saw a 21% increase, the Americas a 26% increase and the rest of the world a 27% increase.

However, Burberry’s operational margins are set to drop in the first half of the 2011 financial year as the brand invests up to £200 million in its stores. This includes the refurbishment of the London, Knightsbridge store and a large new Burberry store on London’s Regent Street in the spring of 2012.

Burberry Foundation

In 2008, Christopher Bailey and Burberry Chief Executive Angela Ahrendts set up the Burberry Foundation. The Burberry Foundation is a registered charity with the aim to help young people to realise their dreams by a commitment to dedicating global resources. The Burberry Foundation invests in select charities focused on supporting young people in the key cities in regions where the majority of Burberry employees live and work, so they are able to participate in volunteer roles with Burberry charity partners on the ground.

The Future of the Burberry Brand

In recent years, the Burberry brand has grown from strength to strength sparking speculation of a potential takeover(2011) by a global fashion house such as LVMH. With a market cap of approximately £5bn (as of May 2011), Burberry is no small pocket change.

Kate Moss modelling for British brand Burberry

Kate Moss Modelling for Burberry

With the strong financial position Burberry was in at the end of their 2010/2011 financial year the brand will continue to invest in growth over the coming years. The brand is planning a 12-13% increase in average retail selling space in the coming year, with a bias towards China, Latin America and the Middle East. Throughout 2011, Burberry plan to open a further 25 stores, with 5 having already opened during the first financial quarter of the year (March 30-June 30), including those in Hong Kong, Chennai and Sydney. Additionally, the joint venture to open 5 stores in Saudi Arabia is now operational. However, the trading environment in Southern Europe remains consistenly tough – with so much money (£200 milion) being spent on store revamps and openings in 2011, will we see Burberry scaling down their operation in Southern Europe if business does not pick up. Watch this space.


Visit the official Burberry website here


Check out other iconic British brands Paul Smith and Dunhill

Leave a Reply