Browns marks 50 years with exclusives, retro-modern campaign and webstore revamp
London destination store Browns is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a a major campaign, a raft of exclusives, a webstore revamp and lots more activity to mark the influential store’s half-century.
But the anniversary won’t yet see the opening of the firm’s new Brook Street flagship as it relocates from its 50-year South Molton Street home.
Originally planned to open in the summer but delayed by the pandemic, CEO Holli Rogers told Fashionnetwork.com that “2020 definitely hasn’t gone as planned, however, we are working towards the relocation of our flagship to Brook Street in December”.
Now owned by Farfetch and still in South Molton Street, the store that was founded by Sidney and Joan Burstein in 1970 is marking the occasion with a concept called Browns 50: The Height of Fashion, taking its inspiration from an ad campaign it ran in its early days during the 1970s.
The products created for the anniversary include “iconic pieces reworked from the archive [and] new designs championing sustainability”. They come from labels such as 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. And there are more to come next year.
As mentioned, the 50th birthday 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 interaction between the digital and physical also means that Browns physical boutiques will house a multi-brand takeover of the 50-year exclusives in the South Molton Street windows. And there will be talking heads in the immersive room at Browns East, a pop-up in the Browns East café with Lily Vanilli who’s “London's most sought after artisan baker”.
But there won’t be any in-store events with the restrictions in London at present meaning events aren't a viable option. “Unfortunately we won’t be hosting any IRL [in real life] events,” Rogers told us. “However, we are spotlighting the exclusive capsules within our London-based boutiques as well as presenting an element of the celebrations through a talking-heads concept in the Browns East immersive room”.
And the need to focus on the digital has also allowed the company to take a more global view than might otherwise have been the case. “A milestone like this, would normally warrant a party, and at Browns we do love a good party,” Rogers said. “Much like everyone in the current climate, we had to rethink and readjust our strategy and are excited to be able to celebrate digitally, meaning we can include our global community”.
As for the new campaign, while the theme references the retailer’s heritage, the concept reflects the modern world in terms of the importance of digital, something even more relevant in the face of the pandemic and its associated lockdowns and semi-lockdowns.
The campaign is digital-first, but the celebrations "are a nod to eras gone by with an inherently modern twist, bringing together an amazing cast of talent that form the Browns community”, the company said.
The imagery and videos “highlight people with both style and substance, from designers and editors to artists and musicians - a true representation of what Browns has been renowned for since the beginning – bringing together the best established and next generation talent”.
The campaign also also features “a selection of the industry’s true fashion lovers recalling times they felt like the best versions of themselves on film, and remembering the clothes that made them feel this way”.
Another reflection of the unusual times in which the retailer is marking its 50th birthday comes as it says it’s “celebrating conservation versus conspicuous consumption and wants to emphasise the value of emotions and memories shared within clothing and fashion which has been at the heart of Browns particularly with our own Conscious efforts. This is about appreciating and celebrating all the cherished pieces that have been close to us — those timeless favourites that will carry us into the next chapter of our highly fashionable future”.
CEO Rogers, who’s also Farfetch’s chief brand officer, said: “When I joined as CEO five years ago, I knew we would see a monumental shift industry-wide and through our pioneering mentality, our values and our ingenuity, I know that Browns will remain at the forefront of fashion and retail for the next 50 years and beyond. We are a fashion institution and we have made it our mission to continue to uphold this legacy, perfectly blending the best of the established luxury brands and the next generation of talent whilst also seamlessly combining the online and offline experience. I’m honoured alongside the team to be leading Browns into this next chapter.”
And while some may not see the importance of celebrating the retailer’s anniversary, there’s no denying that it has had a big impact on fashion not just in London, but globally.
Browns was known for championing Alexander McQueen, Jil Sander, Ralph Lauren and John Galliano in the UK market, giving the latter a launchpad at his graduation that later saw him taking the creative helm of Dior and then Maison Margiela.
It also pioneered the the idea of multi-brand luxury retailers mixing emerging graduate designers with established names.
And the retailer gave some big names their start on the shop floor, employing Manolo Blahnik, Paul Smith and Jimmy Choo’s Sandra Choi.
Joan Burstein said of the anniversary: “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.”
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