Burberry bounces check and resurrects old icons

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Burberry, the fashion house famous for its trench coats, has raided its 150-year-old archives for new icons it can use on its booming accessories lines other than its trademark check - which in the UK has been adopted by football fans and chavs.

Its signature equestrian knight logo, the D-rings that turned its raincoats into regulation combat wear for First World War officers and even Thomas Burberry's signature are all being made into stars for this autumn's collections of handbags, shoes, belts and womenswear.

The "multi-icon" collection, intended to mark the company's 150th anniversary, will be seen as an attempt to stretch the brand beyond the classic Burberry check, which has received a mauling from the hands of comedians and fashion critics alike after being taken up as the uniform of the football terrace.

The new lines will be the first to hit the shops under the aegis of Burberry's new chief executive, Angela Ahrendts, who took up her post on 1 July after a six-month induction. The former Liz Claiborne number two is seeking ways to benefit from Burberry's wide reach, which makes it as popular among the high priestesses of fashion as among tourists picking up a British souvenir.

"I know in the UK we're really known for the check, but in the US it's half check, half horse and in Spain it's all about the horse," Ms Ahrendts said.

The knight logo was first used in 1901 accompanied by the Latin word for "forwards": Prorsum. From this autumn, the horse gets a starring role on everything from handbags to sunglasses. Shoes and bags will be made from both the gabardine and quilted fabrics used for its coats, while the signature of the brand's founder, Thomas Burberry, is featuring on everything from cashmere scarves to its expanded shoe range. D-rings live on as buckles on handbags, shoes and belts.

Christopher Bailey, Burberry's fêted creative director, said delving into its archives was all about creating a "multi-icon" business. "We are making sure all our icons are utilised as an umbrella across the whole world," he added.

Ms Ahrendts, whose predecessor Rose Marie Bravo brought Burberry back to life after it bombed out of fashion, wants to unify a group that has been run as several different businesses for several decades. The company was cut loose from GUS, the conglomerate that is breaking itself up, last year. Ms Ahrendts is also placing more emphasis on the group's retail business, which has traditionally played second fiddle to its wholesale arm. Her plans include expanding the number of annual collections from two to eight and ramping up the group's expansion programme in the US.