Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Burberry Trench Coat

I figured every once in a while it might be fun to put up an informational post, detailing the history or background of a fashion brand, as it will build my knowledge as well as let me share it with others. This post is my cop-out though, as I am simply reformatting a report I did for my Couture class I took in Paris 2007. So I hope you at least learn something new!
Burberry is a British fashion house that specializes in luxury apparel, fragrances, and accessories and is currently run by creative director Christopher Bailey, who joined the team in May 2001. At only 37 years old, Bailey is one of the world’s hottest young designers, achieving the same golden status as men like Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford. Furthermore, as a mark of its world domination, the classic Burberry check pattern is currently one of the most copied patterns in fashion history, along with the LV monogram of Louis Vuitton. I went to Shanghai for five weeks this summer, so trust me when I say that the novacheck print (real and fake) is everywhere!
Also like Louis Vuitton, Burberry has been around for over a century now. Burberry was founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, a former draper's apprentice, in Hampshire, England and he focused mainly on outdoor attire. This history is still apparent today when shopping at Burberry boutiques, as items like rainboots and leather gloves always have their place within the collection.
Later, in 1880, Burberry invented “a breathable fabric made using an innovative process where the yarn is waterproofed before weaving” and called it gabardine. In 1888, Burberry took out a patent for the innovative fabric and three years later opened his own boutique. But it wasn’t until Thomas Burberry literally invented the trench coat that his brand began to skyrocket.
In 1914, Burberry was commissioned by the British War Office to design an officer's coat, to suit the conditions of contemporary warfare. Using his patented gabardine fabric, Burberry created a raincoat which proved to be both practical and elegant, and soon it became a part of the service uniform for all British officers. These gabardine raincoats, which looked like leather, were then dubbed "trench coats" by the soldiers who were fighting in the trenches (can you imagine soldiers today laying in ditches wearing 2,000 dollar Burberry coats!?). By World War II, the trench coat was a part of all enlisted men’s kits in many countries' armed forces. In 1920, the classic novacheck print was designed and used in the lining of all the coats, and the look soon became synonymous with Burberry itself. After the war ended, many veterans returned to civilian life, but kept their coats as a sort of status symbol, which soon became fashionable for both men and women. The coat was then marketed to the public and with the help of American celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, who brought attention to the style, the coat became a must-own and its prominence as a fashion staple still exists today.
Unfortunately, both Burberry and the trench coat itself have had problems with their image over the last couple of years. A Burberry representative wrote that, “There is some concern among the investment community that the ‘plaid mania’ that has seen the Burberry check appear everywhere over the past few years (including knock-offs) may contribute to a premature burnout for Burberry”. With copies of the fake Burberry print adorning everything from cars to toilet paper, it seemed as though the company’s image was irreparably damaged. As for the trench coat itself, the apparel became linked to incidents such as the Columbine High School shootings, where the perpetrators of the massacre were given the nickname, “The Trench Coat Mafia”. Many schools have since banned the trench, claiming it can be used to conceal weapons or mask attempts by exhibitionists to streak at sporting events.
Luckily, Burberry has grabbed a hold of the reigns as far as reinventing itself goes. The store has limited the use of plaid to only a few items, they have limited the distribution channels, associating it only with high-end department stores and private boutiques, and they continue to fight against fraud the best that any major fashion brand can. Today, the company is ranked number three in the world as far as earning profits is concerned, just behind Louis Vuitton (1) and Gucci (2).So to end, if you are looking to own a staple that hasn’t gone out of fashion for nearly a century, are looking to spend a little of that hard earned money, and you desire to own a piece of clothing that is linked to a bit of fashion history; the Burberry trench coat is just the thing for you.


Shaina said...

Wow. Very informative article. Its amazing how Burberry has managed to still be the most sought after house after a century in fashion and is listed as one of the top three of fashion brands with the most revenue.

Also, its very sad to see the house having so many problems with the media and the black markets. The line has become too mainstream, I'm afraid.

pierrebort said...

J'adore le trench, chic, tout simplement ! Je découvre ton blog et j'en suis ravi.
A très vite.

James Bort