The Burberry Story: How Thomas Burberry His Billion-Dollar Luxury Brand
Thomas Burberry, also known as the inventor of the fabric gabardine,
Burberry is an international luxury clothing brand founded by Thomas Burberry in 1856 and currently headquartered in London, UK. Burberry shot to prominence with the invention of the revolutionary fabric gabardine by the founder Thomas Burberry. Initially, Burberry operated as an outdoor outfit brand for soldiers and explorers. Still, it evolved to cater for the elite class and become one of the largest luxury fashion brands in the world.
Thomas Burberry designed some of the most iconic products in fashion history, including the Trench Coat and the signature black, camel, and red nova checks of Burberry.
Thomas Burberry’s Journey To Invent Gabardine
Thomas Burberry was born on August 27, 1835, in a modest family in Dorking, Surrey, UK. Mr. Burberry began working as a draper’s apprentice when he was just a young boy. In 1856, at 21, the aspiring businessman established his own outfitter in Basingstoke, Hampshire, under the name of T. Burberry and Sons, as reported by BuildYourCulture. His early creations were influenced by the outfits worn by the local population. Later, Mr. Burberry focused more on creating outdoor clothing for frequent customers, including locals, tourists, and athletes.
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Young Thomas Burberry pioneered the invention of the gabardine in 1879, as per The Italian Reve. This resilient fabric is created from Egyptian cotton using a novel manufacturing technique. In addition to being water-resistant, this cloth was also incredibly strong. In 1888, he applied for a patent to cover this creation. He rose to international fame when he started promoting his brand-new item manufactured from gabardine in the trade publication Men’s Wear in June 1904. The fabric became famous as it would create an excellent coat for the coldest climates because it would withstand all kinds of weather.
The Birth Of The Iconic Burberry Trench Coat
In 1900, The British War Office ordered Thomas Burberry to create an overcoat that would succeed the older heavy jackets. Burberry created coats for the British Royal Flying Corps/RAF during World War I. It was a thin cotton raincoat with epaulets, a deep back yoke, buckled cuff straps, a button-down storm flap on one shoulder, storm pockets, and D-ring belt clasps for fastening military equipment. The military variation of this same coat evolved to become the Trench Coat.
Owing to its resistance to water Burberry’s fabric started garnering international attention. Based on his creativity, Mr. Burberry modified the gabardine coat by adding shoulder straps and metal rings to officers’ coats, and thus the legendary trench coat came into existence. The trench coat became so famous that it was adopted into everyday fashion after the war. It is popularly known as The Burberry Style and has been tried to be replicated several times around the world.
Following the boom of the Trench Coat, Burberry’s equestrian knight logo and the black, camel, and red nova check were recognized as trademarks by the 1920s, as per Culture Trip. The check was originally introduced as a lining for trench coats until it became a brand signature. Burberry’s trench coats made their way onto the big screen in the 1950s when celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, and Humphrey Bogart wore them. The Trench Coat’s exquisite Burberry checks give the coat a distinctive and sophisticated look, which is why this check is still in trend even after a hundred years.
Thomas Burberry’s Excellent Marketing Skills
Thomas Burberry was a clever marketer and successfully exploited advertising and trademarking. Burberry’s retail store opened in London’s Haymarket neighborhood in 1891, where he attracted buyers using illustrated posters and a clever tagline. After trying a variety of labels, Mr. Burberry registered the Equestrian Knight trademark in 1909 to distinguish Burberry from the replicas. This emblem was used up until the middle of the 1990s.
Mr. Burberry clearly understood the game of face value, and he made celebrities like Lord Kitchener, and Lord Baden-Powell wear Burberry clothing, which would further enhance the brand’s credibility. Britain’s King Edward is also credited for popularizing the Burberry brand in 1917 by explicitly requesting the gabardine coat, making him one of the first members of the royal family to wear one.
Since then, celebrities and aristocrats worldwide have been devoted fans of Burberry clothing. Winston Churchill, Gary Cooper, Joan Crawford, Humphrey Bogart, George Bernard Shaw, Al Jolson, Peter Falk, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Norman Schwarzkopf all were among the clients of the company, as per Encyclopedia.
Thomas Burberry died in 1926 at 91 after creating a behemoth fashion brand that would be remembered for ages. Currently, the Burberry check is one of the most recognizable designs in the world, aptly resonating with the aesthetics of the luxury brand. The company is presently headed by Gerry Murphy and has a yearly revenue exceeding $2 Billion, still beholding its relevance as one of the world’s leading luxury brands.
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Source – Encyclopedia, Culture Trip, The Italian Reve, BuildYourCulture
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