The Burberry company was launched in 1856 to produce innovative, functional outerwear – and founder Thomas Burberry succeeded in his aim. In 1880, Burberry invented gabardine and the illustrious story of the iconic Burberry trench coat began. The fabric was made by weatherproofing high-quality cotton yarns before they were woven into a cloth that could ‘breathe’; in 1895, four years after opening the company’s first London store, Burberry developed a weatherproof coat called the Tielocken, the predecessor of the trench coat.
Burberry sports heroes
From its earliest incarnation, Burberry was associated with celebrated explorers and sports heroes. In 1897 Major F G Jackson, who mapped parts of the Arctic Circle, wore Burberry on his expeditions; in 1910 pioneer aviator Claude Grahame-White, the first person to fly between London and Manchester in less than 24 hours, sported Burberry; the company famously supplied the clothes and tents to Roald Amundsen and his team, the first people to reach the South Pole. Burberry became an official outfitter and designer for the British military services and dubbed itself ‘the king of weatherproofs’ in 1926, when the company began to make regulation gear for officers from the King’s household and the guards. The popularity of the trench coat among the wider public also began to grow. It was a mainstay of Burberry’s ad campaigns by the 1930s and in the 40s the trench shape became a style classic, especially for men inspired by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.
The trench through the ages
A super-practical garment that has timeless allure and silver-screen glamour while never losing its androgynous, rather minimalist aesthetic, the trench was reinvented in the 60s. Those famous images of Audrey Hepburn kissing George Peppard in the rain in her classic pale beige trench, knotted at the waist, in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, gave this iconic garment new, youthful appeal. In 1999 Mario Testino shot the now celebrated image of a young Kate Moss lounging in a Burberry trench for the company’s autumn/winter campaign; subsequent advertising campaigns featured a host of images of Moss wearing various incarnations of the trench.
Burberry trench production
All classic trench coats that carry the Burberry Established label are made in England. There are four key features to the tailoring of the coat; a hand-sewn collar, inverted wedge pleat, Burberry check lining and the under-collar check – as well as the classic epaulettes, throat latch, black rain shield, gun patch/storm flap, cuff wrists, trench belt, d-rings and raglan sleeve.
The bespoke trench
Burberry has recently added Burberry Bespoke to its portfolio; the service lets each customer create their own trench to their personal specifications. You can design your coat online, choosing your preferred style, length, sleeves, buttons and lining, before adding a monogram to be embroidered discreetly inside. Your bespoke garment is then individually crafted and shipped directly to your home or office.
For this spring/summer season, Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer, has worked his magic again, sending a show-stopping succession of modern re-workings of the trench down the runways in va-va-vamp metallic shades. Finally, for true trench aficionados, Burberry’s Art of The Trench is a collaboration between the brand and some of the world’s most famous photographers, including Scott Schuman of the Sartorialist. The project invites Burberry clients to submit images of themselves and their friends wearing the Burberry trench coat. ‘Art of the Trench is a living documentary of the trench coat and the people who wear it,’ explains a Burberry spokesperson. ‘Together we are creating a body of images reflecting personal style from across the globe.’