Why only wear the Burberry check when you can have it cover your whole farm?
Before Burberry and its iconic check became the glamorous fashion icons that they are today, the brand and its favourite motif were more commonly associated with a thirst for adventure and the courage to battle the elements. Founder Thomas Burberry was a fan of the great outdoors and designed with the aim of helping explorers enjoy it. In fact, the Burberry check had humble origins as the lining for raincoats in the 1920s. In 1967, its repertoire expanded when a buyer in the Burberry Paris store removed the lining in a raincoat and wrapped it around a luggage and an umbrella.
Stories of explorers abound in the Burberry archives. In the early 20th century, Elsie Burberry, the daughter-in-law of Thomas Burberry travelled to the Canary Islands by sea and was astounded by its natural landscapes. In 1937, pioneering female pilot Betty Kirby Green, along with flying officer Arthur Clouston, completed a groundbreaking flight from Croydon in the UK to Cape Town, South Africa. They took 45 hours and two minutes, beating the previous record by 33 hours. Burberry sponsored the flight and their plane was named The Burberry.
The adventures of Elsie Burberry and Kirby Green were the inspiration behind the latest iteration of Burberry Landscapes, a creative initiative that seeks to celebrate natural landscapes around the world while demonstrating the brand’s commitment to sustainable practices and its goal of becoming climate positive by 2040.
As a tribute to Elsie Burberry’s journey, Burberry Landscapes travelled to the youngest, smallest, most western, and most southern of the Canary Islands: El Hierro. Deemed a world biosphere reserve and geopark by UNESCO, the island has a unique geological heritage and is the world’s first self-sufficient island. It uses 100 per cent renewable energy, a large part of which is wind.
Here, Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada used the volcanic ground as a natural canvas for his large-scale recreation of the Burberry check pattern. He used natural milk-based paints that was then removed with manual turning with a rake, wind, and water from local sources so that no lasting mark was made on the landscape.
For the piece inspired by Kirby Green’s historic flight, Burberry Landscapes created a Burberry check meadow in the Overberg region of South Africa, near where the two pilots landed. The installation was made up of 104,000 plants grown from seed, fed by water sourced from a rainfall catchment dam, and then hand-planted to form the iconic check pattern.
The exact location of the meadow was in the Happy Valley Farm, which is surrounded by the Riviersonderend conservation area and within the Greyton Shale Fynbox ecosystem. The region is known for exceptional biodiversity and endemism. To ensure no harm to the host community, the plants used in the installation were turned over, then allowed to break down naturally and compost back to the earth.