In 1970, Joan and Sidney Burstein opened the fashion-forward multibrand boutique Browns as a single-storey space on South Molton Street. The Bursteins’ venture grew rapidly, expanding into four more of the adjacent Georgian townhouses by 1979.
Over the years, Joan, affectionately known as Mrs B, has been instrumental in introducing exciting new fashion brands to the UK, including Missoni, Donna Karan and Comme des Garçons. She is one of British fashion’s most influential figures and holds a CBE for services to the industry.
The Browns menswear division, opened in 1976, has one of the most expertly curated selections available anywhere in the world. Head menswear buyer Mei Chung takes Global Blue on a tour of the boutique and shares some of her hot tips for the best new season buys
‘I’ve been working for Browns for almost 14 years now. The DNA of Browns is what first attracted me to the company. Mrs B was the first to believe and support unknown names, discovering new talent and new designers. It’s special to be a part of this story, championing new talent and discovering beautiful products. A lot of my job involves working closely with designers and even students, to develop their pieces and take them to the next level.
‘Our customers are a beautiful mix! They have colourful backgrounds and range from students to artists, celebrities to entrepreneurs. After 14 years, I have many memories, but confidentiality with clients means that what happens in menswear stays in menswear!
‘The store is like your own personal space; it’s like coming home and stepping into your own wardrobe. It’s a comfortable and stylish place to shop and hang out. As you come in, on the staircase, you will see a small and very intimate art gallery wall. We use fashion as a platform to showcase underground artists who have a very niche following.
‘There is no set layout. We create weekly new concepts with the pieces that come in, so the store always has a different angle. Lots of people don’t know that there are two beautiful rooms upstairs, so my favourite part of the design is the spiral staircase leading you to what may be hiding at the top.
‘Our latest exclusive is by one of Britain’s most-loved young designers, James Long. He has created a small collection of exclusive bags just for Browns, featured on his spring/summer 2015 runway show, that we made available to buy straight from the catwalk.
‘There’s no rigid process or set of rules to menswear buying. However, a clear understanding of your store, knowledge of your current clientele and establishing new clients around the world will lead to new discoveries.
‘My top pick this season is the Raf Simons x Sterling Ruby collaboration: it’s wearable art! Look out for Saint Laurent, especially the beautiful striped, sequinned evening jacket. Haider Ackermann has made beautiful unstructured evening jackets in jacquard print. Hood By Air is the best urban streetwear of the season. New and exclusive to Browns is Cedric Jacquemyn, a Belgian designer and Antwerp graduate who specialises in beautiful washed vintage fabrics.
‘When it comes to trends, I’m seeing a rise in denim, which is now appearing in formal and structured pieces. Also, jacquard lurex fabrics in jackets and pants, and loads of Neoprene, especially in jackets and in sweatshirts.’
Browns, 23-27 South Molton Street, London W1K 5RD, +44 (0)20 7514 0016