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For breathing new life into a luxury stronghold

Indiana native Angela Ahrendts is chief of the British label. Checkmate Illustration by: David Cowles Photograph by: Mary McCartney

Scroll the fashions on burberry.com and you’ll be hard-pressed to find much evidence of the British luxury label’s iconic beige, black, and red check. Credit the updated look to CEO Angela Ahrendts, 50, an American who reenergized the 155-year-old company when she took over in 2006. With award-winning chief creative officer Christopher Bailey, 39, she has reinvigorated the once-ubiquitous check and augmented it with edgier styles that have generated annual sales of $2 billion, making Burberry among the world’s top five luxury brands.

Not content simply to jettison its stodgy image on the racks, Burberry has also been digitally savvy. In early 2010, Burberry was the first to simulcast its runway shows in 3-D and invited Elle’s Joe Zee and blogger Bryanboy to take over its Twitter account to tweet the luxe Prorsum collection. In September, Burberry live-streamed its catwalk show and allowed customers to instantly order runway items via iPads it had set up in stores.

This year, the company is extending its web reach. Noting that Chinese shoppers already account for 30% of sales in its London stores, the brand is targeting them directly by launching a site in China.