"There's no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing".
This is not just the story of how I fell in love with a 'brand' in 3 minutes, but a tale of passion, purpose, love, loss, tragedy and adventure. In this special episode I dig deep into the archives to discover the real story behind Thomas Burberry in an effort to try and understand what made him tick.
What I discovered was not what I expected. A far cry from the $5Bn luxury fashion house you see today, Burberry not only had very humble beginnings, but it was built upon an invention that was discovered by accident in a farmers field. That innovation made it possible for explorers, pioneers and adventurers to go further and higher than anyone else had ever gone.
If you are interested in fashion, the process of innovation, branding, entrepreneurship or just good old fashioned storytelling, this episode might be just what you've been looking for.
- 1835 Born Thomas Burberry was born in 1835 in Brockham Green, Surrey.
- 1856 (Age 21) The Burberry fashion house was founded in 1856 in Basingstoke in Hampshire, UK, by Thomas Burberry, who was at the time an apprentice draper. As a specialist in outdoor sportswear, the designer quickly established a wealthy clientele who devoted themselves to hunting and fishing. Burberry was founded on the principle that clothing should be designed to protect people from the British weather.
- 1861 the census reveals that he was employing in his shop 7 men, 3 boys and 7 females.
- Burberry began to researching and experimenting with materials to produce fabrics which were weatherproof and suitable for clothing customers who enjoyed the country pursuits of fishing, hunting and riding.
- The company developed rapidly and in 1870, Thomas Burberry is described as a "draper and manufacturer employing 80 hands".
- 1879 almost Ten years later the designer invented gabardine, after a fruitless search for an alternative to rubber (Aquascutum), which was the only waterproof material known at the time. his innovative research and design resulted in a breathable, weatherproof and tear-proof fabric called Gabardine. The material was light and ventilated, but protected the wearer from the extremes of the weather. The material's success as a lighter and more comfortable alternative to rubber, allowed the Burberrys line (the “s” had not yet been dropped at the time)
- Thomas Burberry invents gabardine – the breathable, weatherproof and hardwearing fabric revolutionising rainwear – which up until then had typically been heavy and uncomfortable to wear.
- Thomas Burberry soon lobbied well-known British generals to adorn his gabardine. the Minister of Defense put Thomas Burberry in charge of creating new uniforms for the officers of the British Army. Thomas Burberry then invented the Tielocken, a water resistant coat in gabardine that is considered the ancestor of today’s trench coat.
- 1881 His business expanded further and clearly he was making money. He moved to a house in Basingstoke which had 160 acres, staffed with a number of servants, and a governess to look after his six children (1881 census).
- 1888 Gabardine patented (9 years later - SLOW - Why? Purpose? Commercial intent?)
- 1891 The company expanded with a shop opening in Haymarket, London, in 1891, and in Reading, Manchester, Liverpool, and Winchester. Burberry's products were also sold through thousands of agencies. Exports abroad began with wholesale branches being opened in Paris, New York and Buenos Aires.
- 1893 Norwegian polar explorer, zoologist and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Fridtjof Nansen is the first recorded polar explorer to take Burberry gabardine to the poles when he sets sail bound for the Arctic Circle.
- 1901 "LOGO" The Equestrian Knight logo appears for the first time accompanied by the Latin word 'Prorsum' meaning 'forwards'. The company runs a public competition to design a new logo for the brand. The winning entry is inspired by 13th and 14th-century armour on display at The Wallace Collection in London – and the Equestrian Knight Device is born
- 1908 Air Commodore Edward Maitland wears Burberry gabardine to travel from Crystal Palace to Russia in a hot air balloon. Covering a distance of 1,117 miles in 31 ½ hours, he sets the world’s long-distance overseas record and the British long-distance in-flight record.
- 1910 Celebrated aviator Claude Grahame-White wears Burberry gabardine. He is the first person to fly between London and Manchester in less than 24 hours.
- 1911 Norwegian Explorer Roald Amundsen and his team became the first people to reach the South Pole with a Burberry gabardine tent and clothing.
- 1912 British Explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott reaches the South Pole wearing Burberry clothing and equipped with a Burberry tent. Tragically he and his team died on the return journey.
- 1912 The Tielocken coat, designed by Thomas Burberry, is patented. Considered the predecessor to the trench coat, the Tielocken closes with a single strap and buckle fastening and only features a button at the collar.
- 1914 Acclaimed British Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton wears Burberry gabardine for three expeditions in the early 20th century, including the ill-fated Endurance expedition.
- 1914 The Burberry trench coat is refined during the First World War. The functional design includes epaulettes used to suspend military equipment such as gloves and whistles, D-rings used to carry grenades, the gun flap to provide additional protection when in action and the storm shield to allow water to run off it smoothly.
- 1917: Thomas Burberry retired from the company in 1917 (BEFORE END OF WWI)
- 1919 HM King George V officially appointed Burberry a Royal Warrant as Tailors.
- 1920 - Burberry’s Limited goes public - raising £2M share capital
- 1920 Nova check The Burberry check, now registered as a trademark, is introduced as a lining to our rainwear.
- 1934 - same day delivery to anyone living in London in own vehicle
- 1937 Burberry sponsors a record-breaking flight from Croydon to Cape Town in an aeroplane called 'The Burberry’. Both aviators, Flying Officer Arthur Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green, wear Burberry.
- 1940s During the Second World War, Burberry supplied the British Army with a range of military apparel and accessories, including the trench coat. Burberry also catered for various other divisions of the British Armed Forces, including the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Royal Navy, the Royal Pioneer Corps, the Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU), and the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) - including the women’s division.
- Despite the austere conditions posed by war, Burberry continued to make civilian clothing during the 1940's including weatherproofs, overcoats and suits for both men and women. The brand adapted the product category to war time to include women’s siren suits, which were designed to be worn in an air-raid.
- By 1965 One in five coats exported from Britain is a Burberry product.