Whether you are a fan of the check print or not, there is no denying the storied history of Burberry, one of the most recognizable luxury brands in the world. Marking its 161th anniversary this year, Burberry continues to thrive as an iconic British label because it is a brand willing to undergo multiple reinventions. Everyone’s favorite Burberry once lost its cool when it was attached to an aging elite market for many years, but since it has tapped a younger crowd of celebrities to help propel the brand to the next generation of luxury shoppers, Burberry once again regained its cool factor. After all, who could resist the idea of imitating the fashion trends set by Emma Watson, Victoria Beckham or Harry Styles, all fans of the brand? To celebrate everyone’s favorite Burberry as a fashion powerhouse, we are channeling cool Britannia. Keep calm and read on the 10 fun facts about your favorite Burberry brand.
1. Thomas Burberry was only 21 years old when he established the luxury brand eponymously named after him in 1856 in Basingstoke in Hampshire, UK. Born on August 27, 1835, he initially worked as an apprentice draper, wherein he learned the tricks of the fashion trade.
To celebrate its 160 anniversary last year, Burberry released "The Tale of Thomas Burberry", a short film that depicts the life of its innovative founder. The film stars Domhnall Gleeson as Thomas Burberry.
2. When Thomas Burberry started his business, he envisioned a brand that specialized in outdoor clothing. Frustrated by the lack of a wearable waterproof option other than rubber at that time, he invented gabardine in 1879. A breathable and weatherproof fabric, gabardine has since revolutionized rainwear and outdoor apparel.
3. With the success of his gabardine-made outerwear, the company opened its first-ever London store at 30 Haymarket in 1891.
4. One of Burberry’s major contributions to the fashion world is the Tielocken, the original design that gave birth to modern-day trench coat. Patented in 1912, the Tielocken was an unbuttoned coat with a belt that fastens around the waist.
5. In the early 20th century when World War I broke out, the British Army tapped the expertise of Thomas Burberry to update the Tielocken and turn it into a functional outerwear on the battle ground. He designed the coat to include belt rings to hold grenades, maps and flasks; shoulder straps to secure binoculars and a gas mask, and large flaps for an added protection on the chest while military men were in the trenches (thus, the term “trench coat”).
6. With gabardine’s growing reputation as a lightweight fabric suited for tough terrains and conditions, Burberry became the brand of choice among polar explorers, most notably Sir Ernest Shackleton who famously wore Burberry in three of his expeditions.
Actor Dominic West plays the role Ernest Shackleton in Burberry's anniversary biopic.
7. The brand continued to grow in popularity, especially among sports fanatics and those with an appetite for adventure. In 1937, Betty Kirby-Green wore Burberry’s blue flying suit as she and Air Commodore Arthur Clouston flew for 45 hours from London to Cape Town to break the world record.
Actress Lily James plays a role inspired by the life of Betty Kirby-Green.
8. In 1924, Burberry created the Nova Check, the label’s most recognizable print. The trademark plaid comes in beige with black, white and red checks. Old Hollywood stars, including Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn were among those then seen wearing the brand. In 1967, Burberry officially trademarked the Nova Check and introduced a full line of accessories with the popular print design.
CHECKS GALORE. Whether it's a pair of rain boots or a plaid tote, there's always a favorite Burberry at Couture USA.
9. The brand was initially named “Burberrys” but the letter “s” was soon dropped in 1999. This branding change signals many other changes within the brand as they launched a new line, Burberry Prorsum, that same year. An homage to its Equestrian Knight label that contains the Latin word “Prorsum” which means “forwards,” the new line aims to move Burberry forward to the next generation.
10. Under the creative direction of Christopher Bailey, who recently relinquished his CEO role within Burberry to focus on being the label’s top designer, Burberry was renamed Burberry London. Although not without criticism, everyone’s favorite Burberry revolutionized ready-to-wear when it launched collections that were immediately available for retail purchase instead of the expected six-month wait typical in the fashion luxury market. With launches like Burberry Brit and even Burberry Childrenswear, the brand is gearing toward another round of fashion British invasion. Are you ready for this fashion British takeover? What do you love most about the brand? Let’s talk iconic British fashion, shall we?