If Thomas Burberry, the founder of the eponymous fashion label, were to star in an early 19th century biopic, it would be a dazzling tale of love, adventure, war and ambition.
It would all revolve around a brooding genius with a vivid imagination and the weight of the world on his shoulders. And naturally, he’d have the kind of dapper charm that couldn’t help but make even the most brave and beautiful of women swoon.
At least, that’s the upshot of Burberry’s shiny, lush, three-minute Christmas ad, which might be better described as a trailer for a superbly casted, if perhaps a bit jumbled, movie that doesn’t—and probably won’t ever—exist.
First, for the roles. As the Guardian reports, actor Domhnall Gleeson (who played General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Billy Weasley in the Harry Potter films) stars as Burberry. Sienna Miller (of American Sniper and The Girl) supports as his wife.
Lily James (of Cinderella and, aptly, Downton Abbey) plays a fictional pilot based on the real-life Betty Kirby-Green, who in 1937 flew alongside A.E. Clouston on a record-breaking trip from England to Cape Town and back, wearing Burberry clothing in a plane sponsored by the company. (James’ character manages to get embroiled in a love triangle with Mr. and Mrs. Burberry, because this wouldn’t be much of a soap opera otherwise.)
Dominic West (of The Wire and The Affair) plays Ernest Shackleton, the legendary explorer, who traversed the Antarctic also while dressed in Burberry. World War I also features heavily in the film. Burberry outfitted some half a million soldiers during the war with trench coats, the light and water-resistant outerwear named for the Western Front’s infamous death pits.
Documentary filmmaker Asif Kapadia directed the ad. The production values are gorgeous—table stakes for a luxury marketer—and the company is smart to draw on its history, which lends some real significance to the narrative (and polishes the brand’s sheen), even as the story tries to cram in every conceivable trope in its rush to lionize its namesake.
His invention of gabardine—the tightly woven textile—referenced in the film, is cause enough in itself to celebrate him. Then again, you’ll probably never get to meet the real Thomas Burberry, so you’ll have to just settle for this cinematic glimpse of him… not entirely convincing as it may be.