In-depth: Browns celebrates 50th with designer exclusives, new campaign and website refresh
Browns celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and the retailer, these days owned by Farfetch, has worked with the team behind cult fashion magazine Buffalo Zine to create a concept entitled "Browns 50: The Height of Fashion", which takes inspiration from a Browns advertising campaign that was first brought to life in the 1970s.
The digital-first celebrations are a nod to eras gone by “with an inherently modern twist”, bringing together an impressive cast of talent that form the Browns community.
Browns has also joined forces with some of the most established names in the fashion industry as well as some of the newest talent to create limited edition capsules and exclusive styles for the anniversary.
Ranging from iconic pieces reworked from the archive or new designs championing sustainability, there’s pieces from the likes of Balmain, Celine, Charles Jeffrey, Fendi, Givenchy, Craig Green, Jil Sander, Loewe, Manolo Blahnik, Molly Goddard, Off-White, Pucci – all going live today, 22 October, with more to come in 2021.
The celebration also coincides with a design refresh of brownsfashion.com which includes a newly dedicated boutiques hub bringing the joy of service to the forefront via "Browns Residencies", a series of virtual and physical experiences “built to accommodate the ever-evolving needs and desires of the client of tomorrow.”
The Browns boutique on South Molton Street – soon set to relocate around the corner to Brook Street – and Browns East in Shoreditch, will house a multi-brand takeover of the 50-year exclusives with head-turning window displays.
Browns launched onto the London scene in 1970 and is still known for its pioneering spirit today. It was and remains a business built on integrity, spearheaded by founders Sidney and Joan Burstein, more fondly known as Mrs B, who championed creativity and innovation like no other retailer.
Browns was known for introducing the likes of Alexander McQueen, Jil Sander, John Galliano and Ralph Lauren to the UK market and was the first multi-brand retailer of its time to create a much-loved home for graduates to sit alongside established designers.
This championing and support of new talent as well as the ambition to create a world for the customer to feel truly inspired and immerse themselves in the best fashion has to offer remains an integral part of Browns DNA.
Joan Burstein, aka Mrs B, founder of Browns, said: “Fifty glorious years and I’ve loved every minute of it! When I started Browns, my aim was to establish a boutique that created an atmosphere that would capture our customers’ imaginations and bring joy when they shopped with us. I also wanted to source individual and timeless pieces from all over the world that would become their personal treasures. I’m excited that Holli Rogers, with the backing of Farfetch, is continuing to fulfil my dreams for Browns - keeping it relevant in the most exciting way. Browns remains the best place in the world to find that special something.”
Holli Rogers, CEO of Browns and Chief Brand Officer of Farfetch, explains all about the Browns 50thcelebrations
How and where are you launching "Browns 50: The Height of Fashion"
A milestone like this would normally warrant a party, and at Browns we do love a good party! However, much like everyone we are rethinking and readjusting and are excited to be able to celebrate digitally, which also means we can include our global community. We’ll be celebrating across Brownsfashion.com, our social channels and in both our London based boutiques with dedicated windows and an installation in our immersive room.
Who came up with the idea and what makes it different and special?
It truly is a celebration of the legacy of Browns and those height of fashion moments we all have. We took a lot of cues from Browns archive advertisements which were originally produced in the 1970’s and brought them back to life with a modern twist. We worked closely with Buffalo Zine and were able to bring together an incredible cast of talent that form our community - people with both style and substance, from designers to musicians, established talent and the ‘next generation’, which is exactly what Browns has been renowned for since 1970.
What will you do with the testimonials and archive images once you have got them in from the "cross section of Browns people - the famous and the emerging?"
We’ll be showcasing the incredible testimonials from the likes of Mrs B, Suzy Menkes, Conner Ives, Susie Lau and Zawe Ashton across our channels and we are also working on pulling together a special printed keepsake to tie in with the launch of our new flagship, Browns Brook Street, opening later this year.
What will be the first steps of the campaign and how will it then roll out?
We kick off the celebration with a fashion shoot, revealing some of the exclusive capsule collections designed specifically for our 50th celebration in partnership with both established and next generation talent including Givenchy, Jil Sander, Manolo Blahnik and more. We’ve also filmed some video testimonials with some of the industry’s true fashion lovers recalling a collective compilation of past fashion memories.
Do you have any details of the special collaborations and when they can be expected to drop?
We’ve teamed up with some of the most established names in the fashion industry as well as some of the newest talent to create limited edition capsules and exclusive styles just for our 50th anniversary. Ranging from iconic pieces reworked from the archive or new designs championing sustainability you can expect to find treasures from the likes of Amina Muaddi, Aqauzzura, Balmain, Bode, Canada Goose, Casablanca, Cecile Bahnsen, Celine, Charles Jeffrey, Collina Strada, Edward Crutchley, Fendi, Givenchy, Craig Green, Jil Sander, Kiko Kostadinov, Khaite, Lemaire, Loewe, Manolo Blahnik, Molly Goddard, Off-White, Pucci and Simone Rocha - all going live from 22 October, with more to come into 2021.
Will the collaboration pieces carry any Browns 50th special labels/ticketing? If so, what will it look like?
It varies from product to product, however, one of the really special labels is across the footwear from Aquazzura and Manolo Blahnik, which include the 1970-2020 dates and signatures from the designers.
How has the business changed since the original Browns concept and how has it developed?
Since the moment the doors of our South Molton Street store opened in 1970, Browns has been known for its pioneering spirit and an incubator for the best fashion talent both established and next generation. When looking at Browns success, I keep going back to the curation and edit, as that is what makes Browns - even to this day. Browns has been intrinsic to the fabric of retail, not only in London but globally, and I think the biggest change is just the shift to a more robust online offering. We do, however, still see the value in bricks-and-mortar and will continue to ensure we are seamlessly merging both the online and offline worlds, delivering exceptional service and experience to the customer.
So, physical retail is still very important to the Browns business?
Absolutely. I have always been a huge advocate of physical stores which is one of the many reasons I joined Browns. The online space is fantastic in the sense that brands have the opportunity to talk to a global audience, 24 hours, seven days a week, however, when you get into a store environment you get that human and physical interaction where you can touch and see the product instantly. I have no doubt that what is going to change over time is the way physical stores operate and service their customers. It’s about a seamless merge of a fantastic physical experience supported by exceptional retail teams with powerful, yet subtle, technology. Today’s customers want convenience and they also want to feel connected and inspired, and to be able to move seamlessly between the physical and digital worlds to have a personalised retail experience. For us, it’s all about resurfacing the magic and bringing it to life in both spaces.
What plans are there to build on the increasingly digital focus of retail for Browns?
We have lots of exciting developments in the pipeline when it comes to the digital arena at Browns. The celebration coincides with a design refresh of brownsfashion.com. That includes a newly dedicated boutiques hub bringing the joy of service to the forefront via ‘Browns Residencies’, a series of virtual and physical experiences built to accommodate the ever-evolving needs and desires of the client of tomorrow. In terms of technology, we’ve been working hard on our in-store app for our retail ambassadors over the past few months, and the pandemic has allowed us to shift our priorities during the store closure and accelerate these developments while also taking into consideration the needs for the customer in this climate. At the moment, the app is currently being tested by our retail teams and will be rolled out to all sales associates in the coming weeks across both boutiques. We have also relaunched our online booking tool which allows customers access to our online and offline personal shopping experiences. I definitely have noticed over the past few years that online has become quite functional so we are fundamentally looking at ways to ensure we engage the customer in this space in a meaningful way.
What else does the future hold for Browns?
We are relocating our flagship to Brook Street at the end of this year and are looking forward to this next chapter for Browns as we pave the way for the future of retail.