The Era and Influence of Browns

London's iconic fashion retail destination.

Joan Sidney Burstein (1946)Original Source: Browns


Browns was founded by Joan Burstein, CBE and her late husband Sidney in 1970. The original store was owned by Sir William Piggott Brown, where Simon Burstein, fomer CEO, worked on Saturdays.

Located at the time opposite “One Stop Records”, the only place to buy music and socialise, Simon recognised the huge potential of the space and together with his sister, Caroline Burstein, convinced their parents to buy it. Karl Lagerfeld was at Chloé, Ziggy Stardust was re-writing the rules on gender and fashion, and Studio 54 was the place to be.

At the dawn of an agenda-setting era, Joan and Sidney Burstein’s impact on the London Fashion scene sent tremors of excitement throughout the industry. There were no multi-brand boutiques at this time and as word spread and popularity soared, Browns outgrew its humble beginnings and soon acquired shops 27, 26, 25, and 23 on the same street. Renowned for exclusively introducing European brands, such as Sonia Rykiel to British fashion lovers, Browns cemented its reputation as a destination for both cutting-edge trends and timeless style.

Browns Magazine, Autumn / Winter 1983/1984 (1983/1984)Original Source: Browns


With an innate flair for talent-spotting, Browns became the first boutique in the UK to stock the emerging American designers who were defining 80s style with their graphic logos and bold silhouettes. Following a chance meeting at Studio 54, between Mrs B and Calvin Klein, Browns secured the exclusive UK launch of the iconic brand. Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Norma Kamali were soon lining the rails too. Adventurous and confident in their pursuit of such designers, Browns embraced the non-commercial and the glamorous alike, establishing an eclectic mix from Commes des Garçons to Alaïa – labels you’ll still find at Browns today.

Browns Archive, Editorial (2016)Original Source: Browns


As well as championing international and home-grown sartorial success stories, Browns became a rare incubator for fresh, young talent. Recognising the great potential in the graduate collections of designers such as John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, Browns stocked them alongside the big global players and displayed them proudly in their windows - a badge of honour that was unheard of for rookie labels at that time. In 1997, Browns opened a dedicated talent platform through Brown Focus, a boutique devoted to young designers which would elevate them to international recognition.

Illustration of BrownsOriginal Source: Browns


After thirty thrilling years in business, launched, making the legendary ‘Browns Buy’ accessible to an entirely new audience. Plus, alongside continually championing the avant-garde, Browns inaugurated an elegant fine jewellery room at 26 South Molton Street and launched Browns Bridal boutiques. Meanwhile, Mrs B was commended for her game-changing contributions to the British Fashion Industry, receiving a CBE in The Queen’s birthday honours.

Browns Y/Project Window CollaborationOriginal Source: Browns


The search for creativity, innovation and originality continues to define the Browns spirit. In 2015, Farfetch, also known for its pioneering approach, bought and started investing in Browns, combining the Browns legacy with Farfetch’s tech brilliance. Holli Rogers was appointed as CEO, leading a dynamic team into a new era for Browns.

Joan Burstein or Mrs B, the Founder of BrownsOriginal Source: Browns


Christened ‘the fairy godmother of fashion’ by, Burstein has an innate flair for spotting fresh talent and is famously credited with discovering names such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Christopher Kane. As well as introducing Jil Sander, Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani and Comme des Garçons to London. Browns has continued to champion talent over the last 43 years and more recently Burstein and the team have been the first to buy into a new generation of designers, including Gareth Pugh, Ostwald Helgason and Meadham Kirchhoff. In 2006, Mrs. B (as she’s affectionately known in the industry) was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list in acknowledgement not only of her achievements at Browns, but for her support of the British Fashion Industry as a whole. When Farfetch bought and started investing in Browns in 2015, Mrs. B was appointed Honorary Chairman of the company.

Browns Archive Material, Original Source: Browns
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John Galliano Graduate Show, 1984, John Galliano, 1984, Original Source: British Fashion Council
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Browns has been at the forefront of fashion history. Famously credited as having discovered designers such as Alexander Mcqueen, John Galliano and Hussein Chalayan alongside a new generation of talent such as Christopher Kane, Roksanda Ilincic and Simone Rocha, all found first at Browns.

Alexander McQueen, Autumn / Winter 1996, Lee Alexander McQueen, 1996, Original Source: British Fashion Council
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Browns WebsiteOriginal Source: Browns


In November 2016, Browns revealed a new visual identity, with all online and offline elements updated with new, contemporary branding. The new logo and packaging stays true to Browns’ heritage, but offers a fresh and modern take for Browns’ exciting future.

Browns returned to its pioneering roots, as also relaunched with a new approach to editorial, social integration and functionality. With a series of refurbishment planned for Browns boutiques due to result in a brand new look and feel, it’s an exciting future for Browns as it continues to discover and inspire, innovate and elevate the global fashion landscape.  

Browns New Website, Menswear, 2016, Original Source: Browns
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Browns New Website, Womenswear, 2016, Original Source: Browns
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Holli Rogers, CEO of Browns (2016)Original Source: Browns


Appointed in July 2015, as Chief Executive Officer of Browns, Holli Rogers is responsible for developing and driving the Browns business objectives and strategy, through leadership of the Browns management team and the Board of Directors.

Holli was a founding member of Net-A-Porter, joining in 2002. Over 12 years, 8 of which were as fashion and buying director, Holli was in charge of the global buying strategy for all womenswear, fine jewellery and accessories. This included key projects such as the launch into the US and Asia, both necessitating dedicated websites and territory-based distribution centres.

Holli also established and led the buying direction for the launch of The Outnet in 2009 and Mr Porter in 2011. Having grown up in Texas, Holli started her career on the prestigious buying training program at Neiman Marcus’s Dallas Head Quarters, before moving to New York for a role with Chanel. Currently, Holli is also a judge for the British Fashion Council's Fashion Awards.

Browns Y/Project Pop-Up Shop, September 2016 (2016)Original Source: Browns


The search for creativity, innovation and originality makes up the Browns spirit. A determination to find the world’s most talented designers, whether established or emerging and then to buy only the very best pieces. From a Dior dress to a Repossi ear-cuff, Browns offers an expert edit of womenswear, menswear, fine jewellery and accessories, carefully curated and meticulously presented online and in store.

Browns Accessories (2016)Original Source: Browns

Visit any of Browns’ stores and you will be struck not only by the unique family atmosphere, but also the incredible Browns’ sales executives, trained to provide nothing less than a personal shopping experience to every customer. In store or online, whether it’s bringing our clothes to your home or hotel, sourcing a particular piece or using the in-house atelier to get your perfect fit, Browns always ensure unparalleled service.

Browns New Logo (2016)Original Source: Browns

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by the British Fashion Council in collaboration with Browns. All rights belong to the Browns unless otherwise specifically stated. All models and photographers have been credited where known.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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