Brand in Focus: Berlei
This week I’m taking a look at Iconic Australian bra brand in focus – Berlei. We all know them, they are synonymous with women’s underwear in Australia. But what are their beginnings and what path did they take to become so prominent in Australia?
A Short History
Pretty much every Aussie woman knows the Berlei brand. They’ve been around for over 100 years and have found their way into the heart of almost every Australian woman’s wardrobe. So when and where did they begin? The company first began in Sydney in 1910 as ‘Unique Corsets’ with the ‘Berlei’ brand originating in 1917. Don’t know what you think but ‘Berlei’ is a far superior name. ‘Unique Corsets’ just doesn’t have the same ring!
The company’s founder, Frederick R. Burley, applied a mis-spelling of his surname to the company name. Apparently he felt his real surname was not ‘contextually appropriate to his products’. Classic and I’d have to agree. Not sure ‘Burley’ would have had the same resonance with women. Another classic was Frederick would introduce himself as a ‘maker of jewel caskets’. Not sure on this one but I guess such an introduction would certainly ensure you were remembered.
Berlei Limited was one of the very first Australian companies to expand outside Australia. Berlei (New Zealand) was incorporated in 1923. A few years later in 1930 Berlei (UK) Limited followed. Expansion did not occur beyond this and both endeavours have since faltered.
Berlei New Zealand started with a staff of 50, growing to 665 employees by 1961. In 1981 Bendon Berlei Limited merged with Ceramco Apparel Group Limited.
The UK expansion started with a staff of 40 growing to 702 by 1961. Following a similar path to its NZ counterpart it was sold in 1982 with the receivers being called in by 1985. The company has been sold a few times since.
The Australian Story
Despite the original success but long term demise of Berlei’s international ambitions the company has gone from strength to strength in Australia. Fred Bruley’s vision for the company was “To Design and Manufacture Corsets and Brassieres of such perfect Fit, Quality, and Workmanship, as will bring pleasure and profit to all concerned, while at the same time rendering such excellent service to our Clients and Consumers as will merit their permanent patronage”. A bit long winded but I guess suited the times.
The major partnerships formed in Berlei’s timeline are:
Associated with the Australian Institute of Sport to help women exercise with maximum comfort.
Partnered with Breast Cancer Network Australia. To date, over 123,000 My Care Kits donated to women who have undergone breast cancer surgery.
Serena Williams discovered Berlei while playing at the Australian Open. She wears the brand for every Grand Slam win from then onwards.
These partnerships have helped develop great fitting and supportive bras, have promoted the Berlei brand and allowed Berlei to give back. All in all, good choices that have helped progress the brand.
So what do I think of this week’s brand in focus – Berlei? I can’t fault them as an Australian success story. Their bras are a great fit to the mid-price range. They aren’t as supportive of some of the more expensive brands but if you want a comfortable and supportive sports bra at a good price then I would highly recommend.
Check out our Berlei range and give them a go.