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The interview: Holli Rogers, Chair, Browns, and Chief Brand Officer, FARFETCH

Tom Bottomley
06 April 2021

Ahead of the long awaited and much anticipated opening of the new four storey 9,149 sq ft Browns flagship shop, in a Grade II* listed building at 39 Brook Street in the heart of Mayfair on 12 April, Browns Chair Holli Rogers talks through the landmark relocation from the retailer’s famous South Molton Street boutique, which opened its doors 50 years ago last year.

Why have you relocated from your iconic South Molton Street store?

South Molton Street has a huge significance in our history here in London, however the space and location was no longer serving us. The customer journey and what the space offered for experiential led concepts, or the ability to showcase the technology piece, was becoming increasingly difficult as we have grown. We did try to revive it and met with architects before deciding to make the move. After a couple of years of looking, we were shown the new location and as soon as I walked in I immediately knew that this would be our forever home. We still wanted to maintain the foothold we have in Mayfair and bring our customers - some of whom have been shopping with Browns for over 30 years - on this journey with us.

When did the South Molton Street store shut for the last time and was that a sad moment?

We closed our Browns store on South Molton Street and Browns East in Shoreditch in December, 2020, in line with the government guidelines. While we didn’t get to say goodbye or to celebrate the space we have called home for so long in a big way, we’re excited for this new chapter. Also, the last moment in our South Molton Street boutique and windows was our 50th anniversary campaign, so it is somewhat serendipitous to be kicking off the next 50 years with this move.

The new Browns townhouse

Why now and why Brook Street for the new store? What’s special about it? 

As a brand it is important we continue to adapt to the changing needs of the customer and now felt like the right time to reinvigorate our space. With Browns Brook Street, we are bringing together the technology piece, with our connected by FARFETCH customer journey, alongside that really human and personalised element which is critical after so many months of being fully digital. It really is a culmination of all the stories we have been working on for the past five years, and through what we achieved with Browns East, and it just so happens to be a landing at an opportune time for customers and an opportune time for us as a brand. This space is incredibly special, not only because it is Grade II* listed and has such historical significance in design and interiors, it is also a space that can truly showcase to the customer our unique Browns edit alongside a wealth of experiential concepts, notably our focus room, immersive room, our restaurant Native at Browns and the courtyard.

What size is the new store?

The footprint of Browns Brook Street space is 9,149 sq ft and is split over four floors. While it does offer a different customer journey to that of South Molton Street, it does not differ in size, as fundamentally we are a boutique.

Browns

What is the layout and what’s unique about the interior and the building as a whole?

We wanted to ensure it still felt like a home which Browns really is and ultimately a place that you would want to visit again and again. It truly is a destination and has something for everyone – those who love art, food, design, interiors, history and of course fashion. At Browns, we love to innovate and take risks, and this is nothing like we’ve done or seen before, particularly in Mayfair. As the building is listed, we made sure to preserve and modernise it through design which was led by Milan based architects Dimorestudio, whom I met previously and have been a big fan of for some time. In terms of products, it offers a curation of our buy, our take on the season, the vibes, trends and attitudes we are loving and the brands we are getting behind from the established to the next generation. Whether it’s to linger in the courtyard, dine with us at Native, experience our immersive room, get ready with our residencies (the parlour) or have a personalised appointment on our Club Floor, it is fundamentally about a circular loop of service - complimentary to and beyond just product.

How long has this relocation been in the making?

As mentioned, when I joined Browns we did look at how we could revive South Molton Street, and we met with multiple architects. However, it just wasn’t possible to layer in both the customer journey piece as well as the technology. We then started scouting new locations, looking for well over two years, before Grosvenor introduced us to 39 Brook Street. Customer experience is hugely important for us, and we feel the space really allows for us to take and adapt what are the traditional means of experience in luxury retail.

How are you preparing for the post Lockdown 3 grand opening?

We are planning to open on 12 April, 2021 in line with government guidelines. Since we went into lockdown over a year ago, we have always worked to adapt and ensure any time we were able to open we were first and foremost prioritising the safety of our employees and our customers. The same will be for the opening of our new space.

Do you think Mayfair will bounce back and be buzzing again?

Absolutely. No one could have anticipated what 2020 had in store for us and it’s taught us the importance of physical interactions, and I believe that Mayfair will bounce back and will be busier than ever before. I personally think that people are looking for that human or personalised connection that is difficult to replicate online. We all love fashion and get into it for the product, and I think people are looking forward to being able to touch, feel and try on fashion again. Most importantly, they are looking for that element of discovery. We, of course, can get anything we want online at any time we want, but what boutiques, and specifically Browns stands for, is our edit. Our customers are missing that personal interaction with their sales associates, and we know they are keen to really engage with them on what is new in and what we are getting behind. Also, people will be looking for spaces to explore, hang out, meet friends and even get their nails done. Browns Book Street offers all of that, with that elevated service and more.

What will the edit look like?

We will have a rotating edit of the best product that will be celebrated across the rooms on our dedicated womenswear and menswear floors, as well as our unisex sneaker and fine jewellery spaces on the ground floor. We will also have homewares and lifestyle, which are both growing categories for Browns. We open the doors with an exclusive capsule in the focus room from Marine Serre which has product across both menswear and womenswear and, much like Browns East, we will rotate this edit with a new exclusive installation every four to six weeks.

How have you integrated the new bricks and mortar store to be seamless with your Ecommerce business?

For us, physical retail remains exceptionally important. This has always been part of our strategy and will continue to be so. However, the connected journey has become even more paramount as we look to ensuring a full 360 service proposition for the customer. With online, you have unlimited access, where as in-store we can educate, inspire and curate, providing a space that showcases our unique viewpoint. 2020 has taught us the importance of having a truly omni-channel approach, and perhaps even cemented the path we were taking. In store, we will have elements such as in-store mode, an extension of the Browns Fashion commerce app which allows you to scan product, check in with a sales advisor and even view what’s in store from your wishlist.

Additionally, we will also have the ‘connected mirrors’ which enable storytelling and rich product discovery at the moment purchase decisions are made. That enhances the customer journey through a connection to their sales associate. The adoption of technology has definitely accelerated, and by blending these two attributes we can ensure we are offering a seamless journey across all touchpoints.

How does the new store drive Browns into the future of physical luxury retail?

Our new magical home will inspire customers as well as usher in a fundamental shift in the way people shop, as layered into this connected, tech-enabled experience is a thoughtful and human side, which is so crucial in the current landscape where personal and personalisation is pivotal. At such an inflection point, it is incredible to see the reality of this store come to life in a revolutionary space which blends the past and the future seamlessly. The space is truly sensorial; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch – offering a unique experience through each visit. The customer is truly at the core of what we do, and we hope that our new home will be one that you never want to leave.

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