Founded in 1856 Burberry is underpinned by founder Thomas Burberry’s passion for the outdoors. He invented the innovative rain-ready fabric gabardine to protect explorers from the elements and in doing so, created the foundation for the iconic Burberry trench coat which remains core to the business even today. Since then the fashion house moved on to ready-to-wear- outerwear- fashion accessories- fragrance- sunglasses and cosmetics. The company is currently listed on London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. As a values-driven brand, Burberry is committed to creating the next generation of sustainable luxury and believe that diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to fulfilling its purpose. Fostering an inclusive culture where differences are valued and embraced enables us to be more creative, engaged and make a more meaningful contribution to the world around Burberry.
In 1856 Thomas Burberry established modern British luxury fashion brand Burberry in Basingstoke at the age of twenty-one, on the principle that the apparel he designed would protect people from the harsh weather. In 1879 he came up with apparel made with gabardine; it was breathable weatherproof rainwear which up until then had been heavy and uncomfortable.
Burberry patented Gabardine in 1888. As proof of its success- Norwegian polar explorer, zoologist and later recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Dr Fritjof Nansen becomes the first recorded polar explorer to take Burberry gabardine to the poles when he sets sail for the Arctic Circle in 1893. In 1897 explorer Major F.G. Jackson wore Burberry gabardine when undertaking an expedition to Franz Josef Land.
That year the company ran a public competition to design a new logo for the brand. The winning entry was inspired by thirteenth and fourteenth-century armour on display at the Wallace collection in London. In 1908 air commodore Edward Maitland wore Burberry gabardine to travel from Crystal Palace to Russia in a hot air balloon and set the world’s long-distance overseas record and the British long-distance in-flight record. The fashion brand was on the route to success.
In 1909 Burberry opened the first Paris store at 8 Boulevard Malesherbes and the following year aviator Claude Grahame-White wore Burberry gabardine when he becomes the first person to fly between London and Manchester in less than 24 hours. In the years that followed- Norwegian Explorer Roald Amundsen and his team becomes the first people to reach the South Pole with a Burberry gabardine tent and clothing and British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole wearing Burberry clothing and equipped with a Burberry tent.
The Tielocken coat invited by Thomas Burberry was patented. The predecessor to the trench coat… it proved to be popular among officers during WWI. The coat closed with a strap and buckle fastening and featured a single button at the collar. A year later and having had presence in London since 1891, Burberry moved to a larger premises in Haymarket. During World War I Burberry provided apparel and equipment to the armed forces. Each detail of the trench served a purpose: epaulettes displayed insignia- gun flap gave additional protection- D-rings were used to attach military equipment- and the storm shield allowed rain to run off efficiently. These features of a Burberry trench remain today.
After the war the trench became popular with civilians and the iconic Burberry check has been in use since… primarily as a lining for the trench. In 1919 HM King George V granted Burberry its first Royal Warrant as a Tailor. Per Harpers Bazaar: “The trench had become synonymous with adventure and utility, but it was Hollywood that made it glamorous. In the 1942 film Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart utters his famous line, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” while wearing a trench coat.” That’s not all! Burberry sponsored a record-breaking flight from Croydon to Cape Town in an aeroplane called “The Burberry.” Both aviators- Arthur Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green- wore Burberry.
During World War II Burberry supplied the British Army with military apparel and accessories including the trench coat. And also catered for Royal Air Force- Royal Navy- Royal Pioneer Corps- Officer Cadet Training Unit- and Auxiliary Territorial Service. Burberry simultaneously made civilian clothing during the Forties including raincoats- overcoats and suits. Burberry adapted the product category during the wart to include women’s siren suits which were designed to be worn in an air-raid.
Thomas Burberry retired in 1917 but remained on the Board of Burberrys Ltd until his death in 1926 at the age of ninety. In 1955 HM Queen Elizabeth II granted Burberry a Royal Warrant as a weather-proofer. Burberry was an independent family-controlled company until 1955 when the Great Universal Stores assumed ownership. By 1965- one in five coats exported from Britain was a Burberry product. During the Sixties- Burberry became legendary as a modern British luxury brand and held fashion shows in London- Paris- Milan- Brussels- Berlin and Tokyo.
Going forward- in 1972- Burberry acquired the factory in Castleford.. the home of the Burberry trench coat.. building on their manufacturing presence in the UK.. a legacy that continues today. There was no looking back. In 1990 Burberry was granted a Royal Warrant by HRH The Prince of Wales as an Outfitter and in 1999 the company name was changed from Burberrys to Burberry.
Burberry opened its first store on Bond Street London in 2001 cementing its status as an iconic global luxury fashion brand and this became the blueprint for Burberry’s global store network. In May 2001, Christopher Bailey joined Burberry as Creative Director and quickly rose through the ranks to become Chief Creative Officer in 2014 and CEO in 2017. However he left the brand in end-2018.
Burberry was listed on the London Stock Exchange following an initial public offering. In 2005 Burberry’s demerger from GUS plc- the company’s former majority shareholder- was complete. The modern luxury fashion brand is big on philanthropy. In 2008 The Burberry Foundation was launched- a philanthropic arm dedicated to helping young people realise their dreams and potential through the power of creativity. Burberry donates a percentage of annual group profit before tax to charitable causes.
That said Burberry continues to look at the future and evolving consumer needs. Art of the Trench- a website showcasing people wearing their Burberry trench coats- was launched. The aim was to provide a platform for the Burberry community to connect with each other… a visionary move a year prior to the rise of global social media platforms. In 2011 Burberry expanded e-commerce with the launch of a new transactional website serving forty-four countries.
“I think one of the things that makes Burberry different is that we’re always looking forward – experimenting, trying new things and pushing boundaries” says the team on the official website.
Sustainability is one of the pillars of the luxury fashion brand. In 2019 Burberry redesigned paper packaging to be made out of recycled coffee cups. Since launch, fifty-eight million coffee cups have been recycled into new Burberry packaging.
The current Creative Director is Daniel Lee “the man who had transformed Bottega Veneta from an insider’s luxury brand to an outsider’s hype beacon” per GQ. “Riccardo Tisci’s modernist sans serif Burberry was replaced by Lee’s more traditional, slightly village-y Burberry, with its neat edges and modest flicks. With it came the return of the 122-year-old ‘Equestrian Knight’ motif…”
Burberry aims to dominate the British luxury industry through continued brand recognition, a refinement of its product offering, and increasingly merchandising products from within the company rather than through licenses.
Burberry’s vision is referenced to Thomas Burberry’s Open Spaces manifesto… the brand draws on its heritage of pushing boundaries and making space for creativity to flourish. For the founder “open spaces” referred to the tiny pockets of air found within the weave of gabardine… the revolutionary fabric he invented. It was also a nod to the freedom his products gave to the people who wore Burberry apparel including explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and aviator Betty Kirby-Green. Today Burberry continues to harness creativity to deliver products of the highest quality and exceptional immersive retail experiences.
British luxury fashion house Burberry- headquartered in London- was established in 1856 by Thomas Burberry to create trench coats during World War I. Since then the fashion house moved on to ready-to-wear- outerwear- fashion accessories- fragrance- sunglasses and cosmetics.
2019 Fashion Innovator Award (Riccado Tisci for Burberry). 2019 Luxury with a Heart Award (Burberry). 2013 British Fashion Awards: Designer Brand of the Year and Men’s Wear Designer of the Year (Christopher Bailey for Burberry Prorsum).
Jonathan Akeroyd (CEO)
Riccardo Tisci (CCO)
Gerry Murphy (Chairperson)
Kate Ferry (Chief Financial Officer)
Orna NíChionna (Senior Independent Director)
Gemma Parsons (Company Secretary)