Burberry has a pioneering and adventurous past. In 1879, founder Thomas Burberry (1835–1926) invented gabardine, the innovative weatherproof cotton fabric that revolutionised rainwear.
Gabardine has since protected a long line of pioneers, helping them to realise their ambitions. The polar explorers of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration chose Burberry gabardine to accompany them to some of the most inhospitable regions on earth. Pioneering explorers such as Sir Ernest Shackleton, Captain Sir Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen favoured Burberry gabardine clothing and, at times, tents for their lightweight and windproof qualities. Burberry also provided motoring kit for some of the most intrepid motorists of the early-20th century.
Record-breaking racing drivers, including Malcolm Campbell and Selwyn Edge, were among the brand’s patrons, as were several aviators in the formative days of aviation.
In 1937, Burberry sponsored a record-breaking return flight from London to Cape Town, when a plane called The Burberry was piloted by Flying Officer Arthur Clouston, who wore an all-in-one Burberry gabardine flying suit. His co-pilot Betty Kirby-Green also wore a bespoke tailored Burberry ensemble. Since then, the Burberry trench coat has become synonymous with the brand. It was patented by Thomas Burberry in 1912 as the Tielocken, when its design featured a belted closure without buttons. However, during the First World War, Burberry adapted the design to meet the needs of the military: the epaulettes, gun flap, storm shield and D-rings were all designed to serve a purpose.
The trench coat was worn by officers in both world wars, and has evolved over 100 years to represent timeless British style and innovation. Today, Burberry’s runway shows continue to channel that original, pioneering spirit through critically acclaimed collections, innovative digital partnerships and live musical performances. In February 2016, Burberry unveiled plans to launch the ‘see now, buy now’ show format, replacing the previous calendar of four shows per year with two mixed-gender shows; from September that year, collections were made available to purchase immediately after the show. All Burberry shows feature products to suit all four seasons, catering for its global audience; but the brand never loses sight of its British roots.
Its September 2017 runway show was a melting pot of colours, textures and silhouettes reflecting the eclectic nature of the British way of dressing: tartan over lace, homespun knits and cagoules with everything.
Burberry’s digital mindset is a fundamental characteristic of the brand, and underpins the way in which it connects with its customers globally. One of the most connected luxury platforms on social media, Burberry has over 48 million followers across its array of social channels. The company has also invested in an industry-leading approach to artificial intelligence technology across its digital platforms, and in 2016 launched a Facebook Messenger chatbot, combining artificial intelligence and human assistance in customer service.
Since then, Burberry has continued to roll out this strategy across key messaging platforms including Line, Kakao and the Burberry app, allowing the technology available on each platform to be leveraged to its full potential.
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