This week fashion house Burberry took part in London Fashion Week. Famous faces witnessed new collections being unveiled but many will not know the global fashion brand started as a draper’s shop in Basingstoke’s Winchester Street.

In the early 19th Century, the people of Basingstoke traditionally made their own clothes but by the 1850s many were exploring the idea of ready-to-wear options.

It was this cultural shift that 21-year-old entrepreneur, Thomas Burberry, hoped to capitalise on when he set up his shop in Basingstoke in 1856.

Burberry’s focus was on durable outerwear. He began experimenting with the development of waterproof materials and in 1879, he created gabardine, a hard-wearing, water-resilient yet breathable fabric, which he frequently used in coats.

Unlike its rival, the macintosh, gabardine coats were not made with rubber but repelled water due to its fine threads and sophisticated method of weaving.

Burberry’s discovery was a huge success. The brand began to supply weatherproofs for all manner of outdoor activities, including exploration.

In 1893, Norwegian explorer Dr Fridtjof Nansen became the first explorer to use garbadine on his trip to the Arctic Circle and British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton wore Burberry gabardine on three expeditions.

In 1900, Burberry was approached to design a new, lightweight military coat. The result was the famous gabardine trench coat, a staple item for around 500,000 World War I soldiers and eventually a must-have for civilians.

In the 1920s, the iconic check lining was added and its popularity soared, even featuring on Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Examples of Burberry coats, including one found in the attic of the old Burberry family home, can be found in the Willis Museum, operated by Hampshire Cultural Trust.

Despite his rise to fame, Burberry kept a presence in Basingstoke, even rebuilding the Winchester Street shop when it was destroyed by fire in 1905.

He set up several factories in the town to support his expanding business, becoming a major employer of female labour.

He retired in 1917 and died at his Hook home in 1926 aged 90.

His grave can be found in Holy Ghost Cemetery. Burberry closed its final Basingstoke factory in 1957.