One can’t help but wonder what plans 21 year old Thomas Burberry had when he opened his first shop in Hampshire, England way back in 1856. Could he have imagined that, more than a century and a half later, his name would be known all over the world?
Burberry’s business soon made a name for itself in outdoors clothing. His 1880 invention called “gabardine” was a waterproof, yet breathable fabric. It was soon used in a number of outdoor outfits, like fishing attire, perfect for the wet English climate. Gabardine was finally patented in 1888.
The success of gabardine gave Burberry the weight he needed to open a shop in London itself in 1891. This remains today, and is actually the site of Burberry’s corporate headquarters. An interesting fact is that the company actually started using the name “Burberrys” during this period. Older Burberry products and advertisements still carry this name.
In 1895 Burberry developed a coat called the “Tielocken”, considered an early version of the well known trench coat.
As a new century dawned, man took up new challenges. One of these was Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton’s expeditions to Antarctica in 1911 and 1914 respectively. Burberry had the honor of being the official outfitters for these missions, which both met with success despite many hardships.
From 1914 onwards Burberry was often commissioned by the military to improve and adapt its coats for the various situations.
In 1955 another honor was bestowed on Burberry’s when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded them the Royal Warrant. A second Royal Warrant followed in 1989, this time granted by his His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
The 1970s to early 1990s proved an unfortunate period for Burberry as the brand became a staple of the British football cult. The company itself had to admit that the brand had become synonymous with thugs and hooligans.
Revitalized in the late 1990s by new CEO Rose Marie Bravo, particularly through the signing of model Kate Moss and Gucci designer Christopher Bailey, Burberry re-established itself as a well recognized international luxury fashion brand. Burberry has continued to find itself in controversial situations. In 2006 they were made the focus of a PETA campaign due to the continued use of animal fur in their clothing line. The closure of their Treorchy factory in 2007 with over 350 jobs being moved to Hong Kong and Mainland China also sparked Global protests. The company currently has boutiques in New York, Beverly Hills, Boston, Short Hills, NJ, Bal Harbour, San Francisco, Honolulu, Costa Mesa, Dallas, and Palm Beach.