It’s in the best interests of all brands, not least luxury fashion brands to have complete control and transparency when it comes to their supply chains, from sourcing to product development.
And for luxury British heritage brand Burberry that means their leather supply chain.
It was announced this week that the fashion label will buy one of its luxury leather goods suppliers in Florence, Italy, including around 100 leather craftsmen who have worked closely with Burberry for more than a decade. By taking production in-house, it’s said that the brand seeks to boost its handbag business in a drive to take it more upmarket.
Founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, the label was originally known for its trench coats and check designs, before then expanding into clothing and accessories, including luxury leather goods, most notably bags.
Image courtesy: Burberry/Jergen Teller, featuring Adwoa Aboah and Montell Martin
In an effort to maintain its heritage credentials, the brand continues to currently produces some of its trademark items, like its trench coats, in Britain.
One of Britain’s most enduring clothing icons and a fashion staple to this day, the trench coat is emblematic of the craftsmanship and quality associated with the Burberry label.
Cotton is used to make the water-repellent gabardine, the iconic fabric invented by founder Thomas Burberry in 1879. Tightly woven in Burberry’s Yorkshire Mill, this breathable and lightweight fabric has been used in their quintessential trench coats for over 100 years and continues to be the foundation of many of their products today.
Intent on improving their entire supply chain with greater emphasis on ethics and sustainability, the British fashion house has been investing in initiatives over the last few years.
The label became members of the Better Cotton Initiative in 2015 and started to procure cotton trough this initiative to support and drive global demand for sustainable cotton. The BCI works with over one million cotton farmers worldwide, helping them to minimise the use of harmful pesticides, reduce water consumption and care for soil and natural habitats, while promoting decent work for the farmers.
Image courtesy: Burberry, starring Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and James Blake
Additionally, from their iconic scarves and knitwear to their distinctive outerwear, cashmere has long been at the heart of Burberry’s product offering for the past 130 years. As such, in 2015 the brand became a founding partner of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), a UK-based NGO working with key stakeholders in Mongolia to restore grasslands, promote animal welfare and ensure a decent living for cashmere goat herders, with the aim of creating a certified source of sustainable cashmere. [This is why it’s so important to be mindful when buying cheap cashmere as they rarely support these efforts.]
Now, back to the leather. From their classic signature handbags and wallets, to runway inspired seasonal updates, leather features heavily across their accessories, apparel and shoes. As a result, beyond just adhering to strict laws and certification within tanneries themselves, the brand traces hides to their country of origin to ensure the avoidance of unethical practices. For example, Burberry will not knowingly use leather from cattle raised in the Amazon Biome as they are directly associated with deforestation and biodiversity loss.
In fact, the brand has ambitions to take it one step further. An important final step for them is to improve leather traceability and motivate action beyond country of origin all the way to slaughterhouse and farm level. Because of this they are working with their partner tanneries and the wider industry to achieve this level of visibility and promote accountability for environmental impacts and animal welfare across the supply chain.
Even this week at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, Burberry’s vice president of corporate responsibility, Pamela Batty revealed that the brand is investing £3million to London’s Royal College of Art to establish a Burberry material research group. Its mission will be innovation, and its radical research into new ways to sustainably make raw materials will be made publicly available.
Undoubtedly, Burberry deserves credit for making the move towards greater transparency and investing in such, and these efforts will hopefully spur other luxury fashion labels on to do the same.
Peer-pressure isn’t always a bad thing. Burberry has recently revealed they are also reviewing their use of fur. No doubt in the wake of industry pressure following a string of leading luxury fashion houses who have chosen to ditch fur.
After all, when you’re paying the luxury price-tag you want to be confident what you’re buying has been made with the utmost care and consideration, from start to finish.