How Thomas Burberry Built his Fashion Business

On this day, August 27 in the year 1835, one of the pioneers in the fashion business was born in Surrey, near London, UK. His name was Thomas Burberry, the founder of the international chain of clothing stores that bears his name. He is also credited as the inventor of gabardine, a tough woven fabric.

Thomas Burberry
Thomas Burberry (Credit: wiki commons)

Thomas Burberry was the son of a grocer and farmer. In his teenage years, he apprenticed in a draper’s shop. After learning all the ropes of clothes making, he opened his own shop in 1857 at the age of 22. His good business sense of identifying the needs of his customers propelled the business to new heights. His clothes were being sold far and wide through different agencies. By the end of 1871, he had 70 employees.

In 1880, Thomas Burberry came out with his waterproof fabric called gabardine. It was a fitting testament to his innovativeness. The clothes he made from this fabric became very popular to people who love the outdoors. In 1891, he opened a branch in the Haymart Market, London. Subsequently, he began to export his products to Continental Europe as well as to the Americas.

In 1912, Thomas Burberry popularized the Trench, an unbuttoned style made from gabardine and fastened with a belt. It became very popular with members of the military and also to polar explorers. In 1917, he retired from the company and his sons took over management.

Thomas Burberry died in 1926 at the age of 90. He married twice and had 6 children. Today, Burberry Group PLC, the company he founded, has annual revenues of more than $2.6 billion and a market capitalization of over $7.5 billion. It operates more than 500 stores around the world.



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