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Burberry – not as truly British as it once was?

Burberry_factory_shop_chatham_place

Chatham Place E9: The location of the Burberry factory shop

There was a great post recently by Liz Jones at the Daily Mail about how Burberry is ‘trumpeting it’s British-ness’ with it’s drive to open super-flagship stores in prime London locations. These new stores will presumably act as a mecca for tourists from Asia, keen to snap up some British goods at local prices.
Liz’s post boldly raised the issue that the ‘truly British’ brand Burberry is, for the most part, manufactured outside of these fair isles. Aquascutum, on the other hand, apparently manufactures 16% of it’s products here in the UK. Which led me to wonder: “do the Burberry customers truly care whether the product is adorned with a Made in Britain label, as long as it has Burberry stamped on the buttons?”

As an ex-Burberry designer I can remember when the company still had a factory off of Morning Lane in Hackney, below the head office in which I used to work. Whereas now this part of town is a hotbed for designers that are making their products in the UK, and selling them at events such as the Designers/Makers market , back then it was much more down at heel.

The Chatham Place factory was, and still is, the location for the Burberry outlet shop. It always used to make me chuckle when I saw Japanese tourists wandering around, looking bemused, thinking “where the hell am I?” You knew that their next question was going to be “where is the Burberry factory?”. You’d point them in the right direction and they would scuttle off to buy bags full of half price raincoats. You could imagine the stories that they would tell back home about how they went to the ends of the earth to get these designer bargains, risking life and limb in Hackney central.

Now, whilst I have no doubt that Burberry are much more able to attract staff now that their head office is not in E9, I wonder whether they ever regret closing down the factory at Chatham Place? And whether those Japanese tourists have slightly less of a story to tell now that they can’t actually claim that they bought their raincoats directly from the factory where they were made?

Burberry factory store, 29-53 Chatham Place, London E9 6LP. Tel: 020 8328 4287

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