WHEN 21-year-old Thomas Burberry founded his company in 1856, even the visionary dressmaker could not have foreseen the dizzy heights his clothing range would reach. Better known then for providing practical outerwear beloved of explorers – the company supplied the clothes and tents when Roald Amundsen and his team became the first to reach the South Pole in 1911, while Sir Ernest Shackleton sported Burberry gabardine on his 1915 expedition to Antarctica – these days wearers tend towards more leisurely pursuits.
Today the company is a global luxury outfit with a 2013/14 revenue of £2.33 billion. Chief creative and chief executive officer Christopher Bailey – who joined the company as design director in 2001, having previously spent time at Gucci and Donna Karan – applies his vision to all aspects of the brand. With eight shops already in the UK, it is finally Scotland’s turn, with the first Scottish store opening recently on Edinburgh’s Multrees Walk. Set over two floors, the sleek interior features large video walls and digital screens showing seasonal Burberry looks. Inside you’ll find womenswear, menswear, accessories, eyewear, watches and fragrances, as well as the company’s beauty range.
A predominantly Brit store (the more casual of the Burberry collections – the others being London, for formal tailoring, and Prorsum, meaning “forward” in Latin, for high fashion), you will find everything from folksy floral dresses, which are teamed with chunky knits to give them a modern edge, to romantic shirts, that work with both jeans and pencil skirts, in this autumn’s colours of black, natural white, khaki and deep claret.
The main event is outerwear. I immediately fall for the off-white, oversized shearling aviator jacket (to throw over one of those fabulous floaty dresses), although wouldn’t mind one of the beautiful wear-with-anything alpaca cardigan coats. Tipped as favourites for this season are oversized pea coats – nothing fitted, it’s a relaxed look that will see you through winter teamed with military-style boots – as well as capes. And, of course, there is the classic Heritage trench coat; a firm fixture on many a lust list.
Made from 100 per cent cotton gabardine, Burberry patented the fabric he invented and called gabardine in 1879, which was breathable, insulating and repelled water. His early coats were popular with everyone from skiers to aviators (they still seem to embody a sense of that adventurous spirit). In 1901, Burberry designed a raincoat worn during the First World War, which was further adapted and named the trench coat.
Today’s look stems from those early military roots. There are seasonal variations – concealed buttons and no belt loops at the back this year, for example – but the core idea remains the same. Three styles – Sandringham (slim fit), the Kensington (Modern fit) and the Westminster (classic fit) – are iconic pieces beloved by celebrities and royalty alike (Gwyneth Paltrow and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, are both trench wearers). Made in England, trench coats come in short, medium and long versions, in shades of honey, stone or black, and lined with the Burberry check. With prices from £995, it’s an investment buy, but after going strong for 100 years, you can be pretty sure it’s not going out of fashion any time soon.
When it comes to menswear, pea coats (double-breasted with anchor detailing), parkas (goosedown filled and shower-resistant in navy, olive or black) and the puffa jacket (goosedown filled in black and navy) are all big news, with chunky cable knits popular too. There is even a range of Christmas jumpers: incredibly tasteful ones. Function and fashion combine in the classic car coat, which has a removable gilet, so essentially three looks in one.
But it’s not just about the clothes. Gracing the lower floor is the autumn/winter beauty counter displaying this season’s radiant Bloomsbury Girls’ look. It’s all earth-toned blushers, nude-pink lip colours and a slate blue eye palette, with rich tones for nails in green, blue and gold. Despite the bold nails, the overall look is dewy and healthy. Both the Fresh Glow foundation and the BB cream are surprisingly light, blend well and offer good coverage, while the blushers add a warm glow.
Creative artistic consultant Wendy Rowe – who does the make-up for all Burberry Beauty campaigns as well as working with Christopher Bailey on the brand’s make-up range – says: “What we’ve done is create textures that are undetectable. You don’t want to be able to tell you are wearing foundation, you just want to have gorgeous skin.”
Looks are kept simple and the ethos is that make-up – like the trench – should make you look your best. “You want people to say you look great, not that your make-up looks great,” says Wendy. The range is designed for modern life with easy-to-use products. “This shouldn’t be difficult,” she adds. “You should be able to recreate these looks yourself. What’s the point otherwise?”
The trench is also at the heart of Burberry’s new signature fragrance, My Burberry, which is backed by a striking advertising campaign shot by Mario Testino, and featuring Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne dancing in the rain to the sultry sounds of I Put A Spell On You and sheltering under – what else – a honey-coloured Heritage trench.
Burberry brought renowned French-Armenian perfumer Francis Kurkdjian on board to create the fragrance. With top notes of sweet pea and bergamot, there is also geranium, golden quince and freesia, with base notes of damask, centifolia roses and patchouli. The lasting fragrance is not over-sweet and it is one of those scents that draws you back, again and again, while the substantial square-shaped bottle features a horn-finish button top and a hand-tied gabardine bow – just like that coat, where it all began. n
• Burberry, 5-6 Multrees Walk, St Andrew Square, Edinburgh EH1 3DQ (0131-301 1299, uk.burberry.com)