In 1856 Thomas Burberry founded his company. By 1870 his business was well established and focused on the development of outdoor attire. In 1880 he invented the water-resistant, yet breathable, gabardine fabric (patented in 1888). Burberry developed the trenchcoat for the British troops in the First World War (1914-1918).
The lining of these trenchcoats was the now famous red, white and camel check. After the war, trenchcoats became popular with civilians and were worn by many filmstars (Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, Peter Sellers in Pink Panther and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany etc). Burberry became a famous brand. However after time the company was labelled as the manufacturer of an old fashioned raincoat and a period of slow decline set in. In 1955 Burberry was bought by Great Universal Stores.
Great Universal Stores looked for a new CEO to revitalize the 101 year old company and in 2000 named RoseMary Bravo, an ex Saks Fifth Avenue executive, as Chief Executive. Bravo brought in an up and coming designer, Christopher Bailey, and under Bravo’s inspiring leadership Burberry embarked on a programme that turned around the fortunes of the company. Central to this turnaround were the new designs by Bailey who based his concepts on the heritage of the company. The brand became so strong that Burberry expanded to include (franchised) items as such watches, perfume, sunglasses and golf items. The strength of the brand was such that Burberry expanded to include (franchised) items as watches, fragrance, sunglasses and golf items.
Burberry is an example of how the change in presentation and (capable) leadership brought about success to a declining brand.