Iconic fashion forward emporium Browns has been at the centre of the West End since 1970.
A mecca of cutting-edge style, it was founded by couple Joan and Sidney Burstein and based at South Molton Street for over 50 years, where it slowly grew from a single house to take over five terraces. The boutique was a true rabbit warren, with every nook and cranny devoted to luxury clothing, shoes and accessories.
World-renowned designers such as Donna Karen, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Jil Sander, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Christopher Kane were first to showcase there. The Browns' buyers bought their collections wisely – you'd find off-beat garments that hadn't been picked up by more mainstream department stores. The well-curated stock both set and enhanced trends, cementing Browns' reputation at the centre of London's fashion scene.
For Browns' next chapter, its chair Holli Rogers was charged with finding a more suitable home. 'South Molton Street has a huge significance in our history, however unfortunately the space and location was no longer serving us – we wanted to develop experiential retail concepts that our customers have come to expect. We'd been looking for a couple of years and never found anything we truly loved, but as soon as I entered 39 Brook Street I knew it would be our forever home.'
And what a forever home: the building is Grade II* listed, and the former showroom of quintessentially British decorating brand Colefax and Fowler.
So what can we expect of the new space? 'We've been looking at experiential retail through our store in east London and are bringing some of those elements to Mayfair – albeit in a new way – with areas such as the Immersive Room and the Focus Room,' says Rogers. 'The store is about creating an environment that is truly sensorial. Fashion is intrinsically linked with culture and that’s why experiences such as food, art, interiors, music all play into the space and offer a layer of engagement that goes beyond the product.'
It will also have its first dedicated homeware department, stocked with wares by the new guard designers such as Yinka Ilori, Anissa Kermiche and Louise Madzia, alongside established brands like Versace and Missoni Home.
But it's the 'experiential extras' that will set Brook Street apart. 'We’re also very proud to have Native on board as a partner to offer affordable, fun dining, as well as dedicated areas such as our Club floor that offer private shopping experiences and the chance to tap into our rotating Residencies programme.' The Native restaurant and courtyard were designed by in-demand studio Red Deer, while the main shopping spaces and 'Club' floor have been produced by the superstar interior designers Dimorestudio.
Original features from the building's time as Colefax and Fowler's HQ have been carefully preserved. The 'Ante Room' has intact Flemish murals, added by Nancy Lancaster (owner of the brand from 1948 and celebrated for her 'Yellow Room') in the 1950s.
Keeping true to this decorating heritage, Dimorestudio have incorporated new hand-painted wallpapers in a Victorian style in association with Milan based brand Pictalab, contrasted in the Dimore tradition by burnished brass surfaces, smoked glass cabinetry and shaggy deep pile carpets. These sit handsomely alongside reproductions of mid-century classics by Knoll and vintage pieces sourced by the studio.
The result is the feeling you're in a nightclub – think Studio 54 mixed with Biba – but surrounded by the finest garments.
We spoke to Dimorestudio founder Emiliano Salci about the project:
What was your brief for the interior design of new Browns store?
Within a historical building, to conceive a highly connected environment, showcasing the collections and offering personalised in-store and online shopping experiences, with connected mirrors in the changing rooms and in the VIP rooms on the top floor.
To create a cultured and dynamic space, featuring historical finishes and a contemporary atmosphere, with periodically evolving displays on the ground floor, a dedicated inner window to a specific brand, and a sneaker room, to meet the tastes of consumers alike.
How did you decide on the materials used?
The choice was the result of the inspiration drawn from the arts world – Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Fausto Melotti – and the architectural constraints we encountered. The metallic freestanding hanging structures are one of the results.
What about colour?
One of our trademark signature is the use of colour. We've used black for the metal structures and for the floor tiles, silver and gold. We've added faded hues for the wallpaper reminiscent of Victorian flowers and stripes.
We have used Forbidden Light Blue Dimoremilano fabric to create custom-made wallpaper fitted carpet for the sneakers room and colour block for the VIP rooms – historical and contemporary, bold and soft hues for a modern, elegant, yet deliberately unfinished space and atmosphere.
How did you marry your vision with the function of the space?
We've used structures that are able to adapt to a more dynamic and evolving shopping experience.
Visit this new destination from April 12th to experience the delights for yourself. Let's hope the brand continues to pioneer and promote the latest fashions for the next 50 years. brownsfashion.com
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