The Burberry Benchmark Featured

How the luxury brand is using its iconic heritage to drive innovation and set the bar for the future of fashion

by 17 September 2013

Burberry, the heritage brand iconic for its stately trench coats and synonymous with British attitude, has been making waves in the fashion industry for its forward-thinking innovations. Blending fashion and tech, Christopher Bailey, the brand’s creative director, and Angela Ahrendts, CEO, have seamlessly translated its classic legacy into a benchmark for the future of fashion.

From heritage brand to early adopter
Founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, who was only 21 years old at the time, the company introduced gabardine, the water-resistant yet breathable fabric, to the industry, with its trench coats that would later become famous around the world. Exactly 150 years later, in 2006, Ahrendts and Bailey focused their efforts on using digital media tools to strengthen the brand in a way that all other luxury brands would be years behind in doing. After seeing the potential of the digital world, Burberry set out to reach young consumers in an innovative way, and launched their blog The Art of the Trench in 2009.

This blog, much like the Tumblrs and Pinterests of today, was dedicated to the iconic Burberry trench and the everyday people who wear it. There is no better Burberry piece than the trench to symbolize the brand, its fashion-forward legacy and its democratic foundation. The success of The Art of the Trench was almost instant, and after one year of this campaign, Burberry had the largest fan base of any luxury brand in the digital media sphere. As an early adopter, Burberry paved the way for the luxury sector’s engagement with digital media. 

Today, nearly every brand will offer their fashion show by live streaming thanks to the Burberry benchmark, but how many can say they also live-stream their shows in 3D onto digitally-enabled screens at London’s Liverpool Street station, while simultaneously on giant LED screens at Burberry Beijing? Burberry was the first.

Evolving the luxury customer experience
In order to keep surprising us with their technological advancements, Burberry remains at the forefront of fashion and technology. For their autumn/winter 2013 collection, Burberry introduced Smart Personalization. For the first time ever, Burberry has made it possible for the public to purchase pieces directly from the runway through the brand’s Runway Made to Order service. Its custom-made coats, bags and accessories, including eyewear and watches, unlock digital experiences specific to the customer. These bespoke pieces include engraved nameplates and embedded microchips, which unlock a unique video experience that charts the product’s artisanal production from the sketches to the runway edits, craftsmanship and personalization.

One of their most impressive displays of digital advancements can be found at their Regent Street flagship store in London, where every aspect of the brand’s digital world is brought to life in a physical environment. In Paris, the Burberry flagship store on Rue Saint Honoré displays simultaneous digital content, music, runway shows and interactive content across their giant LED screens. The Paris store also offers customers the opportunity to order bespoke suits via their iPad application and try them on in their interactive VIP lounge.

Keeping the heritage alive
Between their star-studded advertisements, their live streaming fashion shows, and their interactive digital campaigns like Burberry Kisses that launched last summer, Burberry’s innovation hasn’t left its classic British roots behind. In fact, it has made them even stronger. Ahrendts and Bailey understand that in order to successfully innovate and evolve the brand, they need to lead with its 154-year-old legacy. From small details like British music playing simultaneously in every Burberry store around the world, to large campaigns like Burberry Acoustic, which promotes emerging British musicians, the brand’s patrimony remains very much alive.