23-27 South Molton Street, London W1
Who you need to know
Owner Joan Burstein (left) creative director Caroline Burstein and chief executive Simon Burstein
Brands include Burberry, Christopher Kane, Lanvin, Mary Katrantzou, Meadham Kirchhoff, Oscar de la Renta, Preen
Set up by the inimitable Joan Burstein and her late husband Sidney in 1970, Browns is the benchmark that other indies measure themselves against.
Affectionately known in the industry as Mrs B, Burstein is a renowned champion of new designers and was instrumental in the early success of
household names such as John Galliano - buying his entire graduate collection in 1984 - and later Alexander McQueen. More recently, the store has been the first to buy into the new generation of designers, including Christopher Kane and Gareth Pugh.
Over the past four decades, Browns has grown from a small boutique to seven stores, including Browns Bride, Browns Labels For Less and the directional Browns Focus, as well as an online shop. Last year, it launched Shop 24, a new concept focused on luxury basics and bridging the gap between Browns’ eponymous flagship womenswear store and Browns Focus, which specialises in new, cutting-edge design. It stocks brands including Ruffian, Bodyline, Burberry Brit and ALC.
The Burstein’s children, Caroline and Simon Burstein, joined the business as creative director in 1993 and chief executive in 1998 respectively.
Caroline Burstein says the biggest challenge facing Browns is the competition from large department stores “[who are] beating at our door with a bigger buying budget and huge promises only to go on Sale earlier and earlier.”
The company’s response has been to fine-tune its selection of brands and to continue its relentless search for new talent. Two years ago, the retailer launched the Browns Focus Collection, a capsule range created by emerging designers. Browns has also teamed up with US retailer Club Monaco to launch its collection in the UK this season.
After celebrating its 40th birthday last year, and with a new generation of family members at the helm, including Caroline’s daughter and Mrs B’s granddaughter, Charlie Collis, who runs Browns’ online business, Browns shows no signs of relinquishing its position as one of London’s most famous fashion emporiums. As Caroline puts it: “We are one of the few [independents] still around and standing by what we believe in. The enthusiasm that comes from Mrs B is still tangible to all who shop with us.”