It’s been a big start to the year for Burberry. With a new chief creative officer, Daniel Lee, at the helm, the historic fashion house revealed a redesigned brand identity and accompanying launch campaign ahead of his first runway show in charge, which took place at the end of February.
Just as the world anticipated when it was announced Lee would be moving to Burberry, the new branding signalled a return to its British roots, but with a dose of fresh air in how it told that story. It’s been a marked gear shift from Riccardo Tisci’s five-year tenure at the top, where sleek, minimal aesthetics coursed throughout Burberry and its sans-serif branding designed by Peter Saville.
Hot on the heels of this revised direction comes a new book written by renowned fashion journalist and critic Alexander Fury, with a foreword by Carly Eck, Burberry’s archive brand curator. Making the most of its cultural capital, the cover design leans into the brand’s most instantly recognisable creation, the trench coat. As its name suggests, this garment was initially designed for officers to wear in the trenches during World War I, long before it became an outerwear staple. The word ‘iconic’ is painfully overused but with the trench, it is wholly justified.
The book, published by Assouline as part of its Legends collection, breaks the story of the brand, which was founded by Thomas Burberry in 1856, into five chapters. It brings together over 200 images drawn from Burberry’s archive, including plenty that give a closer look at the development of the brand’s staple check. First introduced in the 1920s and taking off in the 60s, the print has been through its own complicated journey – from a status symbol to an (oft-mocked) emblem of the working classes and back again.
While Burberry is a now a global fashion powerhouse – there are plenty of photographs of its elaborate runway presentations – the book also expands on its beginnings as an outfitter for the great outdoors. Aviators, explorers, and the humble walker all turned to its weatherproof wares in the early 1900s. Through a range of historic imagery and illustrations, the book recalls Burberry’s presence on polar expeditions around the turn of the 20th century, as well as the Burberry-sponsored plane painted in the brand’s colours, which was piloted by Arthur Clouston and Betty Kirby-Green in 1937.
Given most rebrands begin with a trip to the archives, it’s fascinating to see the same material that creative directors past and present will have turned to in fleshing out their new visions.
The fashion industry is known for being transient. Brands these days are willing to unveil a seismic change in direction every few years to satisfy the conveyor belt of creative directors, meaning luxury giants end up pinballing between logos and even house names.
That may be the case, but by bringing everything together into one place, Burberry’s new book illustrates how it all adds up to a brand’s rich tapestry. The only thing missing, of course, is Daniel Lee’s chapter, which is only just beginning.
Burberry, published by Assouline, is out on March 28; assouline.com