Certain fashion items have become easily recognized global phenomena over the years: Louis Vuitton's signature LV monogram; Chanel's interlocking C's; Burberry's tan, black, and red tartan, of course. The British heritage brand's "Haymarket Check," as it's formally referred to, has become one of the most iconic symbols of a fashion house, ever — and one of the most copied.
First used in the 1920s for the lining of the label's still-popular trench coats, the pattern has since been translated onto its best-selling bags, scarves, and more. But, once Burberry's current designer, Christopher Bailey, took the reigns of the house in 2001, its classic plaid became less a symbol of the wealthy and more of an indicator of the world's increasing fascination with counterfeit culture.
Ten years ago, London-based photographer Toby Leigh saw this shift and began snapping pictures of fake Burberry items he saw on the streets of Thailand, Serbia, the United Kingdom, and more. "In the mid-2000s, the right wing British tabloid media coined the offensive term ‘chav’ to describe the white working class in the U.K.," Leigh tells Refinery29 of the first time he started to notice the prevalence of these copies. "The dominant fashion accessory in this phenomenon was fake Burberry — a.k.a. ‘Berberry’ — clothing. This meant that ‘Berberry’ check was suddenly in the public domain and seen as more than just the preserve of the rich. It was really funny watching the luxury brand squirm as the pattern gained more popularity and was used in more ludicrous ways."
As the replicas got more ridiculous — think tattoos, toilet seat covers, and full apartment building façades — Leigh began to amass a serious collection of images that he's now put into a book, aptly titled Berberry. He realized that these illegally rendered items weren't just a fad. "I began to see that the pattern had become the ubiquitous symbol for anyone wanting to give something a luxury feel," he says. "I think it also taps into a sort of global obsession with British heritage on some level."
The pages of Berberry highlight this exact allure: the idea that people will go to great lengths to sport a recognizable symbol of a design house, even if it isn't authentic. And though there are tons of legal repercussions that come with this activity, we have to admit: the juxtaposition of something as basic as a travel mug decorated in the classic tartan is quite amusing. Click through to see just what we mean.