The general school of thought when it comes to rebrands is that they’re risky business. They can be great when properly executed, turning middling brands into thriving ones. But they can also undo years—sometimes decades—of history and momentum.

In fashion, total rebrands are few and far between in the sense that few labels have completely revamped their image over the years. Hedi Slimane’s dramatic (and seemingly ego-driven) rebrand of Yves Saint Laurent to Saint Laurent Paris sticks out as particularly memorable. But rebrands are also common in the sense that creative directors and designers routinely jump from one label to another and while the brands themselves remain the same; their direction is wont to change depending on who’s captaining the ship. The best example of this in the present day has to be contemporary Gucci under the guidance of Alessandro Michele.

Burberry is one brand that has undergone many rebrands of the latter variety over the last few decades; rebrands that may be better characterized as realignments. But, on Thursday, at a time when so many other labels are tinkering with their look, Burberry announced a dramatic overhaul that is more in line with Slimane’s Saint Laurent Paris than Michele’s Gucci.

But first, it helps to give a brief history of why Burberry’s brain trust thought the brand needed a rebrand.

[Burberry has a checkered past]( when it comes to the strength of its brand. At its roots, Burberry was a true, luxury outdoorsman brand, worn by Arctic explorers and World War I soldiers. The brand’s iconic Nova Check, chevalier logo and serif type logo were once synonymous with “country aristocrats.” However, towards the turn of the millennium, Burberry was co-opted by a more mainstream set of fans, tapping the traditional luxury connotations to bolster street cred and clout (in a way not unlike the logomania we see today). The overall connotations were seen by the brand as being less desirable.

Football hooligans and chavs—defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as, "a young lower-class person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes”—made Burberry their brand of choice in the late-’90s. By the early 2000s, when Cool Britannia was at its peak, Burberry was, ironically, no longer revered—it was reviled. As the Anglophilia was hitting its peak, one of the region’s biggest brands had become a mainstream logo that had oversaturated the market and was no longer carried by traditional British luxury retailers like Selfridges.

Under the stewardship of Christopher Bailey—hired in 2001 as design director, promoted to creative director in 2004, chief creative officer in 2009 and ultimately CEO in 2013—Burberry slowly reset course. He sidelined the Nova Check by decking out the face of the brand, Kate Moss, in sleeker, sexier and more understated outfits, before buying back the globally scattered licenses that had allowed the brand’s iconic print to adorn everything from dog beds to baby strollers. By the 2010s, Christopher Bailey and then-CEO Angela Ahrendts had Burberry’s print problem in check and shifted their focus to turning Burberry into one of luxury’s innovating brands on the digital front. It worked—so much so that Apple poached Ahrendts to head up the tech giant’s retail business—and Burberry was, once again, a proud and polished luxury brand.

But, even with this success and new focus, Burberry wasn’t cool per se.

Those two things set the stage for the most recent incarnation of the Burberry brand. In 2015, Burberry consolidated its many lines—Prorsum, Brit, London—under a singular Burberry label. It was a time of great change within the fashion industry writ large; that same year, Demna Gvasalia took charge of Balenciaga at time when it was becoming increasingly hard to differentiate between fashion and the mainstream lines that fell around (or, in some cases beneath) the runway collection. The thinking was that, under a single label, the brand could offer a more consistent Burberry experience and pave the way for a seamless collection that spanned low-end casual wear to high-end runaway pieces. In effect, it’s a move not that far removed from reacquiring and consolidating any stray licensing deals that put the brand in trouble in the 2000s.

Tags: peter-saville, riccardo-tisci, burberry