Is Burberry a good bag brand?

Is Burberry a good bag brand?

Is Burberry a Bag Brand?

Within the dominant hierarchy of major fashion houses, Burberry stands relatively solitary as the one British brand to achieve longstanding and widespread success. Sure, other UK designers have achieved legendary status – Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Victoria Beckham all make attention grabbing clothing – but the Basingstoke-founded company, started in 1856 as a producer of high-quality outdoor apparel – fulfils all the necessary marquee criteria: history, recognizability, international appeal, and signature pieces.


Those signature items include tan trench coats and clothing with the ubiquitous Burberry check, but not – by and large – leather bags, which is somewhat surprising since Burberry’s raison d'etre was initially utility.


Instead, it is other, smaller British companies such as Aspinal who are renowned for marking quality bags. And while Burberry makes some outstanding pieces that lack nothing in quality and idiosyncrasy, it can’t match the broader, market-saturating fame of Louis Vuitton or the less expensive but popular offerings from prime retailers like Michael Kors or Coach. Nevertheless, do not underestimate a Burberry bag.




The First Burberry Bag

Burberry’s move into the luxury market starts in earnest – as it does with many marquee labels – in the 1980s. A browse through catalogues and advertorial photos from that era tells you [unsurprisingly] all you need to know about Burberry’s strategy and customer base.


Gabardine and check are omnipresent on models and in scenes that emulate the upper-class ideal: Land Rover, mansion, hunting dog. The first Burberry bags are almost quaint in their adherence to the simple marriage of quality construction with heavy branding. This approach lasted a long time – originating in the sportswear sector and copied heavily by most front row clothing brands – and has only really softened with the rise, concurrently, of the internet and the fake industry.      


How has Burberry Changed the Look of their Bags?

For Burberry, more than any label, changing the look of their accessories and clothing was a necessity that – as it transpired – enabled them to transition ably from the era of iconographic high luxury to the nuanced and customer-responsive era that the internet originated.


Much has been written about how Burberry were essentially suffering from their own increasing popularity, with several international licensing deals that made the Burberry check – the most recognisable and rather unique design attribute [that only later would be emulated by the likes of Louis Vuitton on their dominant LV bags] – commonplace.


Essentially, oversaturation cheapened the brand. This lead to fakes aplenty and the association of this stalwart of upper crust values with a class one or two steps below.


What followed – Angela Ahrendts, Christopher Bailey – is the stuff of British fashion legend. In essence, Burberry dropped much of the licensing deals, reduced the amount of check on show, got an early handle on internet sales and linked up with trendier British stars to make itself relevant again.


Look through the early to late 2000s collection under Bailey and the mood change is conspicuous. A reneging on lifestyle-leaning threats to a darker palette, formality, sharper lines and yes, the discerning and not overstated use of the check, now with an almost imperceptible focus on black stripes, as opposed to a previous infatuation with tan.





Burberry Bags

Bags likewise have turned from the light. Where the check features it is frequently disguised as a structural design component or as a motif. The Olympia bag is proof positive: the check version is cleaned of any fussy tea party associations in sharp black/white, grey/beige contrasts, while other models offer single shades or a sportier logo lead. The Leather strap is another deviation from the obvious chunky Italian template towards British restraint.


How are they Made?

Parallel moves in fashion have led paradoxically both away from and towards the importance of branding. While fake products continue to devalue the brands and logos of the industry’s biggest players, those brands have simultaneously placed greater attention on construction and original design ideas, which has upped their marquee again.


The construction process is largely the same for all leather bags: from animal to curing, tanning, cutting, templating, and stitching. The difference with a quality product like a Burberry bag is in the quality of the leather and mounting:  soft structured but strong and able to hold its shape through the years.


Stitching will be even across the whole template to the nearest millimetre and shoulder strap or top handles will sit in curt harmony with the design ideal.  






How Trendy are They?

Trendy might not be the best word to describe Burberry. While current creative director Ricardo Tisci has done much to reintroduce a certain lightness with futuristic looks and symmetrical patterns, movements at Burberry are away from instantaneous hits to intense creativity that incorporates the best of the label’s back catalogue.



Women’s Bags

The Lola bag meets the lux agenda [and the chain strap versions seemed destined for a night out], while the TB bag is suitable for most occasions; designed to complement whatever trendy or conservative clothing you pair it with. These are two shoulder bag templates with very different conclusions.

The Horseferry Canvas Tote is a fascinating [and all-in-one] construction that demands a similarly single-tone wardrobe to make it simultaneously modern and old school [the Pocket Tote variant is a smaller/safer take on the same idea].


The blacker bags across the range often allude to the kind of French glamour that the likes of YSL master, although boxier types are of a satchel appearance or – with the black Title bag – of an independent business mindset. No, not trendy; that would be to diminish what Burberry is trying to achieve.


Burberry is an independent British luxury brand that has not only learned from mistakes common to many in the fashion industry but has also thrived on continually reinventing itself and reinvesting in those aspects that made it great to start with.


Riding the tenuous line between the future and the past is not easy, but in business and in style Burberry looks beyond what is trendy, and eternally down upon what is not classy. It remains the luxury brand for lovers of very British style and class.

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