Thomas Burberry didn’t found his eponymous house with hopes of turning it into one of the world’s biggest fashion brands - in fact his sights were much more firmly set on explorers, soldiers and farmers than the fashionable elite. And yet today it is one of the most instantly recognisable brands in the world - thanks largely to both its much counterfeited signature check and its much coveted classic trench coat. Step right this way for the highs and lows that made Burberry the brand we know today…
Aged 21, Thomas Burberry founds his eponymous house in Basingstoke with the aim of providing his customers with functional clothes that can stand up to the British weather.
A monumental year both for the Burberry brand and fashion innovation. Thomas Burberry invents gabardine - a new lightweight, weatherproof fabric that turns traditional heavy and uncomfortable rainwear on its head.
Nine years after its invention, Burberry patents gabardine.
Burberry opens his first boutique in London marking a formal expansion from pure outdoor clothing into fashion.
Burberry proves his clothes can walk the walk as polar explorer and Nobel prize winner Dr Fridtjof Nansen becomes the first person to take gabardine to the poles on an expedition to the Arctic Circle.
Burberry’s famed charging equestrian knight logo is born thanks to a public design competition run by the brand. The winning entry is inspired by 13th and 14th Century armour on display at the Wallace Collection in London.
Thomas Burberry patents the Tielocken coat - a design which closes with a single strap and buckle fastening and buttons only at the collar. It is now widely considered the predecessor to the trench coat.
Success demands Burberry moves to a larger London premises and a building in Haymarket designed by Walter Cave is chosen.
The trench coat makes its debut as part of British Army uniform during World War One. This highly practical design features numerous military elements - including epaulettes, a D-ring and gun flap - as well as Burberry’s trademark weatherproofing features.
The iconic Burberry check starts life as a coat lining.
Having retired in 1917, Thomas Burberry passes away aged 90.
Ahead of its time, Burberry begins offering same-day delivery in London with its own dedicated van.
Burberry’s long-standing association with explorers continues as the house sponsors a record breaking flight from Croydon to Cape Town. Pilots Arthur Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green both wear Burberry.
Burberry is granted a Royal Warrant for weatherproofing from Queen Elizabeth II. During the 1950s stars including Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn are also spotted in Burberry trench coats, gaining the item international fame.
Over a century after its foundation, one in every five coats exported from Britain is a Burberry.
Burberry acquires the factory in Castleton where its trench coats are produced to this day. The brand still prides itself on manufacturing many of its collections in the UK.
Burberry receives a second Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales as an outfitter.
The house rebrands from Burberry’s to Burberry and art director Fabien Baron creates a new version of the knight logo along with a more modern font style. The brand contends with the ubiquity of its famous check - which has become a symbol of consumerism and the often less-than-chic logomania of the 90s and 00s. Its popularity among C-list celebrities and football fans badly damages the brand’s exclusive image.
Christopher Bailey is appointed design director heralding a new era for the dwindling house.
Angela Ahrendts leaves Burberry to join Apple. Christopher Bailey becomes CEO, in addition to his role as chief creative officer.
Burberry becomes the first brand to operate a ‘See Now, Buy Now’ model, making items available to purchase immediately after the catwalk show, as well as consolidating its men’s and women's shows into one mammoth event. Former Celine boss Marco Gobbetti replaces Bailey as CEO, who becomes Creative Director and President.
Burberry partners with the Royal College of Art to create the Burberry Material Futures Research Group with the aim of innovating sustainable materials and advancing manufacturing processes. In 2018 the house also joins the Ellen MacArthur Foundation ‘Make Fashion Circular’ initiative to tackle the environmental issues of the fashion industry.
Having announced his retirement in November 2017, Riccardo Tisci replaces Christopher Bailey as chief creative officer. He immediately enlists Peter Saville to help refresh the brand’s logo and monogram and shows his first collection - SS19 - in September.
Burberry finds itself caught up in controversy after it is reported the brand participated in the, unfortunately commonplace, practice of burning unsold goods to avoid discounting. It is reported that Burberry burned £28.6 million worth of product in 2017, prompting Greenpeace to condemn the environmental impact of both using unnecessary resources and the emissions caused by incineration. In response Burberry commits to ending the practice - as well as its use of real fur.
Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Burberry announces its SS21 collection will be displayed in an open air catwalk attended only by the models and Burberry staff. Taking place on 17 September, the day before London Fashion Week, it will be streamed live and made available for the public to watch.