April 02 2010
Lucia van der Post
Most of us who have bought anything from Browns, the much-loved fashion boutique started by the legendary Joan Burstein and her husband 40 years ago, can remember it in vivid detail. I still remember my first experience of the Browns knack of knowing how to make one look one’s best. One of Browns’ famously talented assistants, who got my “look” to a T, kitted me out with the perfect navy blue and white striped cotton suit. She even advised me where to go to find exactly the shoes to go with the suit (this was before they’d started selling their own seductive selection). The years after that have been dotted with other delights bought when life seemed sunny or when a big occasion loomed.
Today Browns has a place in the hearts of all who love fashion. There’s scarcely a big designer name that the gimlet-eyed Mrs B didn’t latch on to first. From the stars of the 1970s such as Missoni and Sonia Rykiel and younger talents who burst onto the scene in the 1990s such as John Galliano, Hussein Chalayan and Alexander McQueen (whose graduate show was famously put in the windows of Browns) to the newer crop of whizz kids such as Marios Schwab, Roksanda Ilincic and Christopher Kane, the list of designers she has championed is long and glittery.
The store will, naturally, be celebrating its 40 years. There’s going to be an exhibition telling the history of fashion according to Browns; this will start on May 13 and run for three to four weeks at The Blake Penthouses in London’s Soho. What is probably of more interest to real fashionistas is its Future Collectables – a collection of limited edition pieces that Browns has commissioned from the key fashion brands and designers that it has supported through the years. Each piece is expected to capture the essence of the brand. Many will either be archive pieces or will be tweaked and modernised versions of an iconic design.
Take Sonia Rykiel’s offering (third picture, £890): a slinky dress with all the key Rykiel trademarks – the knits, the stripes and the wit, in the form of giant red lips. Hussein Chalayan has made one of his carefully constructed dresses from a past show but this time in white cotton with clear resin details at the waist (£700). Roksanda Ilincic has created a lyrically beautiful summer dress (first picture, £840), a reworking of her bestselling dress from her 2008 summer collection. (Also shown: second picture, dress by Missoni, £665).
Each will be made in very limited numbers and will bear a “Browns Future Collectables” label. Some items will, I think, be very hot tickets so anybody wanting them shouldn’t drag their heels when they go on sale on April 14. Future Collectables will be sold in all Browns fashion shops, online and through pop-up shops in key luxury retailers around the world, including Grieder in Zürich, Bongénie in Geneva, Quartier 206 in Berlin and Ounass in Dubai.