Founded in 1923 by J. Spencer Love, Burlington, a division of International Textile Group, Inc. (ITG), recently celebrated its 90-year anniversary. Once the largest textile manufacturer in the world, the Burlington brand continues today as a supplier of advanced performance fabrics to the apparel, military, active wear, barrier, and contract markets around the world.
Joseph L. Gorga, CEO of International Textile Group commented, “Burlington’s successes came from its innovations with new products, new machinery, and new branding strategies, and we congratulate the men and women of Burlington, both today and generations before us, for their contributions to this great brand.”
“Burlington’s first success came from the ambition and willingness of Spencer Love to take a risk and try a new fiber, called rayon,” said Jeff Peck, President of Burlington. “Throughout the past 90 years we’ve overcome many challenges by returning back to our entrepreneurial roots, and today Burlington’s legacy continues on a global scale, focused on innovation and advanced performance fabrics.”
Burlington’s performance technologies and brands include No Fly Zone, MCS, Maxima, Class C, Durapel Plus, Easywool, Synatural Cool, and Sigma 4 Star.
In the beginning, Love, a Harvard graduate and young soldier just home from World War I, headed to Gastonia to join the family textile business. Using his savings he purchased the struggling mill from his uncle and moved the equipment to Burlington, N.C., a town looking to attract new business. The cotton fabrics he produced soon fell from style and Love decided to try weaving a new experimental fiber, called rayon. The new fabric was a success and within a few years Burlington was the national leader in rayon.
From its humble beginnings Burlington grew rapidly through the challenges of the early years and the Great Depression, buying and reopening many textiles mills that had closed. The corporate headquarters was moved from Burlington to Greensboro in 1935, and by the following year the company had grown to 22 plants and sales of $25 million. Burlington Mills made its appearance on the New York Stock Exchange in 1937.
World War II brought new challenges to the industry and nation. Burlington’s research laboratories focused on government projects including the development of parachute cloth made with another experimental fiber, nylon.
Burlington’s post-war growth was mostly focused on civilian uses for nylon and the diversification of its products across apparel, home furnishings, furniture, hosiery, industrial, and specialty markets. “If it has anything to do with textiles, Burlington does it, and does more of it than anyone else in the world” became Burlington’s mantra entering into the 1970s. The company reached its peak employment in 1973 with 88,000 employees and 169 plants in the U.S. and abroad.
Import pressures brought a new dynamic to the industry, and Burlington further refined its products, modernized its facilities, and greatly improved efficiencies to better compete on a global scale.
The company successfully fought a hostile takeover in 1987 and becoming a smaller, private company.
It emerged again as a public company in 1992. Continued import pressures and heavy debt led the company to restructure again in 2003 before becoming part of International Textile Group, a textile conglomerate formed by WL Ross & Company.
“The resiliency of the Burlington brand is as strong as ever,” said Peck. “We are rooted in our heritage and poised for growth as a global leader in quality, styling, and advanced innovation.”