Branding Burberry: Britishness, Heritage, Labour and Consumption

Weston, Sian. 2016. Branding Burberry: Britishness, Heritage, Labour and Consumption. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines British fashion company Burberry, and how it moved from its semi-rural craft-based origins in the mid-19th Century, to become a successful, global luxury fashion brand in the 21st Century.

The thesis uses different methodological approaches including interviews with factory workers, archive materials, historical government documents, images from branding campaigns, and Internet responses in order to build a rich narrative starting from Burberry’s beginning in 1856.

Changes to shifting retail and production landscapes, marketing, consumer demographics, and management structures are traced over a period of 150 years, and show how a company re-brand in 1997 generated structural contradictions within each of those areas, shaping its future both inside the company and externally.

Burberry’s use of new technologies and social media in tandem with ‘heritage’ images and products shows how harnessing them together created new and lucrative global markets for the brand. Similarly, its long history is used to create an idealised ‘old England’ for the export market, particularly for consumers with a purely online relationship with the brand, though analysis of international and national markets reveals how contradictions in campaigns created outcomes that could not be predicted.

The company re-brand is used as a focus to examine how Burberry attracted young, British working-class consumers, and how that caused sections of the UK media and the general public to protest against those seen as ‘bad’ consumers, capable of damaging brand value. Equally, issues of class and ethnicity cut across the company, primarily in terms of ‘whiteness’, showing how the brand has been used to further devalue the cultural capital of working class consumers and a single so-called ‘celebrity chav’.

The thesis shows how although Burberry positions itself within the luxury market, its meaning remains mobile, which is simultaneously precarious, contradictory and paradoxical.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


luxury fashion production, the ‘bad’ consumer, the construction of heritage, thrift, fashion, class, gender

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 November 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Dec 2016 12:22

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 13:57


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