The Burberry Story

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January 31, 2013 by ginafashionistar

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Robert Shieie

For more than a century and a half, Burberry has been one of the UK’s most celebrated brands, having grown from a single retail shop into a major British fashion house with a label that is recognised all over the world. From perfume and body spray to handbags and trench coats, the range of products stocked by the company is immense and continues to grow and be continually refreshed with each season as new lines are launched.

Back in 1856 when the company was first established, there was just a single shop in the town of Basingstoke from where Thomas Burberry at the tender age of 21 launched his own fashion brand. His aim was to create functional outerwear that was of the highest quality, and innovative to boot. It was 35 years later in 1891 that the company moved into its first shop in the capital, and that was when things really began to take off. By focusing on outdoor clothing and developing a water-resistant, yet breathable material, Burberry made its name and soon began producing items of clothing for a huge range of influential customers, including mountaineer George Mallory, English pioneer of aviation Claude Grahame-White, polar explorer Ernest Shackelton and even the British War office. As the years passed the reputation of Burberry grew, the firm became synonymous with quality and style.

It was in the 1970s that Burberry as a brand became popular on a mass scale across Britain as casual attire. It was during the same period that exports to other parts of the world, including Japan and America, increased considerably.  Rose Marie Bravo was brought in as the chief executive of Burberry in 1997 and it was under her control that the company began to market itself as more of a luxury women’s fashion retailer. The company’s focus shifted from the Burberry check that the company had become known for, and instead looked to new product lines, expanding the firm’s customer base and carving out a new niche in the market.

Today, Burberry’s commercial success is well known, with Bravo (who is now the vice-chairman of the company) lauded as one of the most powerful women in the world. Such was the level of growth experienced by the company in the late 90s and early 00s that the phrase “to do a Burberry“, ie to turn a recognised but tired brand into an international powerhouse, became a recognised saying across the fashion industry.

The company’s range has grown immensely to include best-selling products such as the fragrance Burberry touch, men’s and women’s watches, a huge variety of fashionable bags and of course clothing ranges that take in everything from pencil skirts and bikinis to trench coats and jeans. And with new collections being released all the time, there is no reason to expect that the brand will sit still. Without doubt, its links to stars such as actress Emma Watson – the face of Burberry’s 2009 autumn/winter campaign – models Kate Moss and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley will ensure that the company remains right at the heart of fashion in the UK and in markets all over the world.

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