It’s luxury fashion, but not as we know it – Luxos takes a look at Burberry, fashion pioneer of todayBy Victoria Gill
The thousand tastemakers gathered around Burberry Prorsum’s AW10 catwalk at London Fashion Week weren’t the only onlookers to witness the must-have collection as it was unveiled. For in custom-designed auditoriums across the globe - Paris, Tokyo, Dubai, Los Angeles and New York to be exact – guests wearing 3D specs were also privy to the show, in what was a watershed fashion moment.
Burberry has always done things a little differently. The veteran British brand founded by Thomas Burberry as a small outfitter in a small town has grown exponentially in the 150 or so years since it all began. Timeliness and innovation were among the keys to its success, even in the Victorian era. The Equestrian Knight logo and Prorsum lettering – Latin for ‘forward’ - was added in 1901. Explorers Ernest Shackleton, George Mallory and Roald Amundsen all set out to conquer in Burberry. (Today Lily Donaldson, Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley, and contemporary British faces Kate Moss, Agyness Deyne and Emma Watson represent the brand instead). At the start of WWI the British War Office commissioned an adaptation of the officer’s coat Thomas Burberry developed nearly two decades earlier for the Boer War, and the iconic trench was born. None of this would have been possible had the former draper’s apprentice from Basingstoke not invented the invincible gabardine material in 1880.
Today the house dresses an army of style savants instead. Burberry’s ‘Art of the Trench’ digital platform is a global celebration of the universal garment by roaming cutting edge photographers, depicting the trench coat and its wearers in an homage that redefines the luxury digital fashion zeitgeist.
The arrival of former Gucci Senior Designer of Womenswear Christopher Bailey in 2001 reinvigorated the brand as much as the man - the 38-year-old Yorkshireman rose from new kid on the block to MBE in the space of eight years. Today Bailey, now Chief Creative Officer, is one of the driving forces behind Burberry’s monopoly on virtual style, cemented by him being honoured with a CFDA International Award for innovation in June 2010.
Bailey and Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts communicate quarterly company updates from the new, state-of-the-art London headquarters (until last year the Haymarket premises that Thomas Burberry opened in 1891 was the epicentre of the brand) not via email but by livestream broadcast to the group’s offices around the globe. The Horseferry Road building features motion sensor lights, a heavy emphasis on music and ipod on many desk as well as global video conferencing and a digital photo studio to enable images to be posted online within two hours. As Ahrendts put it: “We can either get crushed or ride the greatest wave of our life.”
And it’s not just for the benefit of insiders: this season’s Spring Summer 2010 catwalk show was the first to be live streamed in 2D, enabling one hundred million followers to view the new collection at home or on their iphones as it took place. This summer, major innovations on burberry.com will interface The Art of the Trench with its social networking and ecommerce offering. With other, major luxury houses looking to follow its lead, Burberry is once again ahead of the style set in what is a turning point for fashion – but not as we knew it.
For more Burberry see
Burberry Prorsum Womenswear Autumn/Winter 2010
Military Inspiration for the new Burberry Collection
For a list of Burberry boutiques, click here.