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Gennaio 2011
Grazie a Thomas Burberry, un commesso geniale, questo caratteristico disegno a scacchi è diventato un simbolo inconfondibile dell’eleganza British in tutto il mondo, ma la sua storia è piuttosto movimentata. Reso famoso dai grandi esploratori, è stato adottato dagli hooligans e combattuto dagli animalisti.

di John Rigg

File audio:

“Horseferry House,” Burberry’s London headquarters.
“Horseferry House,” Burberry’s London headquarters.
Jennifer Aniston wearing Burberry London trench coat
Jennifer Aniston wearing Burberry London trench coat

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

It’s winter. It’s raining. You need a good raincoat. You need a Burberry, the iconic British label for rainwear. Today Burberry is a world-famous fashion house with shops in all major cities. In 1855 it was only an idea in the head of shop assistant Thomas Burberry.
Thomas Burberry opened his first shop in Basingstoke in 1856. He specialised in outdoor clothes. He then invented gabardine, a water-resistant fabric. Burberry’s reputation grew. He opened his first shop in London, in Haymarket, in 1891.


How did Burberrys of London become so famous? Burberry provided clothes for adventurers like Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole (1911), and Ernest Shackleton, who crossed the Antarctic in 1914.
Burberry is most famous for the trench coat. It was designed for British Army officers in the First World War. The name comes from the trenches of that terrible war. The trench coat then became a Hollywood icon. Humphrey Bogart wore one in Casablanca, and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


The label lost its glamour during the 1990s. Football hooligans adopted the coat. The police even called a campaign against anti-social behaviour “Operation Burberry.” So how did Burberry save its image? The first changes came with the appointment of a new CEO in 1997: New Yorker Rose Marie Bravo. Bravo focused on high fashion. Advertising campaigns featured top models and celebrities like Kate Moss and Harry Potter’s Emma Watson. Burberry also employs top designers, like their chief designer Christopher Bailey.
Today Burberry has shops in over 70 countries. Its products are expensive and exclusive. The range includes men and women’s clothing, bags, shoes and fragrances. There are handbags like the alligator skin Warrior at €15,000 and scarves at €350.


Burberry has also embraced the digital age. Their product range is available worldwide through their online shops. They have 2 million Facebook followers. Followers enjoy fashion shows live online, and music from British musicians selected by Burberry Acoustic.
There’s a special site dedicated to the trench coat: www.artofthetrench.com. Here visitors can customise their very own Burberry trench coat!


In 2006 Burberry announced the closure of their factory in South Wales. New factories opened in Hong Kong and China. The decision was very unpopular. Protests came from local politicians, celebrities like Tom Jones, and even Prince Charles. They demanded to keep Burberry British. The protest became a global movement through the internet. The factory closed, however, on March 30th, 2007.
In 2006 the animal rights organisation PETA started an international campaign against Burberry. They protested against the use of fur in Burberry clothing. The campaign focused on Burberry fashion shows, protests outside Burberry’s shops, and the creation of a dedicated website: www.bloodyburberry.com. The campaign is still active today.

Horseferry House - Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 2AW
Website: www.burberry.eu

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Operation Burberry. È stata un’operazione della polizia britannica contro gli hooligans nel 2006. I berretti con il famoso disegno a scacchi, o almeno le versioni taroccate, erano diventati una parte importante della divisa “hooligan”, aiutando i teppisti a riconoscersi tra di loro. Questa moda era talmente conosciuta  che alcuni pub e club rifiutavano l’ingresso a chi indossava i quadretti offensivi.