“For me, Britishness is an attitude, a strength, a confidence and a freedom.”
Riccardo Tisci, Burberry Creative Director
Whether it as a polite gesture or an anecdote, British people would always somehow mention the state of the weather in a talk. Surrounded by the heartless Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, the country has been in a battle with harsh winds and sudden showers for the centuries. It has brought a 21-years old Thomas Burberry to an idea that there must appear such clothes, that would eventually protect Britons from its weather mood changes. In 1856, he established his shop "Thomas Burberry and Sons" in Basingstoke.
The first thing he did was a thorough research of that one fabric that would be able to save clothes from soaking under the rain. Thomas Burberry eventually succeeded in 1879 and patented gabardine – for designing comfortable, breathable, and, most importantly, weatherproof garments. It became a superb alternative to the heavy rubberized mackintosh coats. The safekeeping qualities of the material were even tested as far as in the Arctic Circle, by Norwegian Polar explorer Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, where the temperature might lower down to −35 °C. Gabardine was honored to become the first fabric to fly in the world's long-distance overseas journey to Russia, accomplished by Edward Maitland. Its highest point of credibility was reached in 1955, as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II granted a special warrant for its weatherproofness.
The most iconic Burberry symbols appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. Ever since 1901, the Equestrian knight riding a horse has turned into an inseparable association with the brand. With all its horrific losses, the WWI period by unfortunate coincidence prompted the birth of the legendary trench coat. It wasn't the fashion desire that was behind it: it was an ultimate practicality and functionality crucially needed in tranches. The description of the trench's design said that it was "three coats in one:" the pockets and epaulets were sown for hiding army equipment while the storm shield didn't absorb the water. It was followed by the famous Burberry check pattern, introduced during the 20s decade.
In 2001 Yorkshire-born Christopher Bailey took over a role as the Design Director - and remained with the brand for 17 more years. His capsules were the representation of the fast-changing world: once could trace how the brand tried its best to adapt to the digitality and reign of technology, also maintaining the heritage of the British culture and lifestyle. Such unstable mood changes were reflected from the flirty and daring SS2008 to the nostalgic SS2012 and inspired by 20th-century photos but urban FW2017 collections.
The 2018 appointment of current Chief Creative Officer Riccardo Tisci at first caused a wave of gossips. How could a non-Briton understand the essence of the brand, which DNA has been infused with the UK refined culture? Whether because of his experienced eye or Italian built-in perception of beauty, or even both, Tisci met the challenge with dignity.
The designer said himself that he found a connection with Burberry through the Victorian Epoque, to which Thomas Burberry belonged and in which Tisci enjoys studying most. In the last two years, he reassured everyone that there is no need to worry about any radical departure from the bourgeoisie tradition. Instead, he wants to widen the customer's audience to all generations and various cultures.
As for now, there are several lines of Burberry's collections: Prorsum, London, Thomas Burberry, Sport, Brit, Beauty, Watches, and Eyewear. During the last decade, Burberry has not only been a sign of classics - it strived to innovate a step ahead of its luxury fellows. Even in the pre-COVID reality, the brand was among the first labels whether to stream a fashion show online or pre-post collection on Twitter, long before it has become a forced routine. It also supports the "circular fashion" principles, being a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative and launching a project for developing new Burberry sustainable fabric.