Browns: 40 Years Fashionable

Paolo Roversi Honors the Boutique's Iconic Personalities

The poet William Blake once called South Molton Street home, but for the past 40 years London's charmed pedestrianized enclave with its Georgian terraced buildings has lured visitors whose ambitions are more sartorial than iambic. The ultra-stylish boutique Browns, opened in 1970 by Joan Burstein (or “Mrs B,” as she is called by insiders) with her husband Sydney, has long been London’s foremost purveyor of local designers destined for stardom, as well as the cream of international talent. It was Browns that first introduced London to the zig-zagging delights of Missoni, the minimal cool of Calvin Klein and the dark deconstructed glamour of Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons label, and it was Browns that launched the career of current Dior designer John Galliano, after Burstein impulsively bought his entire graduate collection in 1984. At the venerable age of 40, Browns now occupies a sizable portion of the shopfronts on South Molton Street, comprising two stores for men and women, Browns Focus for emerging designers, and a standalone shoe store (stocking lusted-after designs from Christian Louboutin and Nicholas Kirkwood, among others). To celebrate the anniversary this year, venerated photographer Paolo Roversi (a regular contributor to Italian Vogue and Elle) shot a series of intimate portraits of 40 luminaries—including Gareth Pugh, Marc Jacobs and Ann Demeulemeester—that have defined Browns in the past four decades. The images are collected in the book Browns: 40 Years of Fashion Innovation.

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