Are you a huge Burberry fan? I am! I don't think there is a better trench on the planet and the variations you can buy these days is astonishing! It is also an interesting company from a business point of view - it has survived, successfully, for a very, very long time now! Did you know that it was founded in 1856?? That is crazy!
With the fall weather firmly upon us I thought it might be interesting to do a quick recap of this remarkable company. It was easy to get the info - I just popped right over to the company website. With brands on board the information highway these days, most have pretty comprehensive sections devoted to company histories on their websites these days! This is off course just the history light version but even just a glimpse of this company is pretty fascinating!
Thomas Burberry founded the brand in 1856 and moved into his first shop in London in 1891. Yep, at one point he was just a young designer who probably worked out of the back of his living room just like countless young designers now! In 1895 the company came up with a "weatherproof coat called the 'Tielocken'. This is the predecessor of the iconic trench coat." In 1897, the famed Artic explorer, Major F.G. Jackson wears Burberry. Maybe one of the very first product celebrity placements!
Between the late 1890s and early 1900s Burberry becomes part and parcel of the exploration community - supplying tents and coats to infamous explorers like Robert Scott, Roald Amundsen and aviator Claude Grahame-White. A move to a larger store and outfitting more of the most famous explorers of the day follow - Sir Ernest Shackleton, Captain John Alcock and Lietenant Arthur Whitten Brown. The time period between the late 1880s and 1920 were the hey day of exploration and brave men mapped all the corners of our planet. It is really a fascinating time period and if you like history and tales of adventure you really should go on a little reading splurge. Personally I have read a ton of biographies and accounts of many of the explorers from this time period and despite that I had no idea that Burberry was so integral to all these men!
In 1914 Burberry adapted its coats specifically for WWI soldiers fighting in the trenches (hence the name the trench coat was born!)
In 1920 Burberry expanded their line and started producing clothing for women. They were also making sports clothes by this time period as well - gabardine ski suits were wildly popular amongst both sexes. As aviation took the planet by storm, Burberry moved into that sector and outfitted some of the most famous aviators of the day and in 1937 they even commissioned a Burberry plane with "Arthur Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green complete their record-breaking flight from Cape Town."
I love that one of the pilots was a female!
Through to the 1960s the brand expanded with more stores and a focus on the trench as a fashion item. In 1961 they dressed Audrey Hepburn in the Breakfast at Tiffany's movie - remember that iconic scene where she wears the trench? They outfitted the Olympic team in 1964 and in the time period between the 1960s and 1970s the Burberry trench coat was established as a classic. I still find trench coats from this time period and they are just as wearable now! In the late 1970s and through to the eighties the company aggressively opened stores world-wide and became a household name.
Once the nineties hit and the luxury fashion world became the end goal for every major company in the world, they jumped right onto that bandwagon and launched their first ready to wear collection under Roberto Menichett. By 1999 the company was under the direction of CEO Rose Marie Bravo who solidified Burberry as a company that could compete in the world of high fashion. She made Kate Moss the house muse and had her photographed for ad campaign after ad campaign by the great Mario Testino. Christopher Bailey joined the company as head designer and the rest as they say, is history.
It is a fascinating company and while we in the fashion world often tend to salivate over the "big" brands like Chanel or Dior - these are just baby brands compared to Burberry. The next time you consider buying whatever current version Christopher has dreamt up of the iconic trench - know that you are buying a long standing bit of history, that is filled with countless brave men and woman standing behind it!
Have an adventurous and vintage filled day