2 posts tagged "Joan Burstein"
Now in its fourth year, the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund announced its shortlist of nominees today. Roksanda Ilincic, Mary Katrantzou, Nicholas Kirkwood, Peter Pilotto, and Emillia Wickstead are all up for the £200,000 prize, which was won in previous years by Erdem, Christopher Kane, and Jonathan Saunders. The winner will be named on January 29 after the designers present their collections to a panel of industry professionals that includes British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman, the BFC’s Caroline Rush, Lisa Armstrong, Browns’ Joan Burnstein, and more. An intimidating bunch? Sure. But with a career-boosting 200 grand on the line, we wouldn’t expect anything less.
Joan Burstein—Mrs. B, as she’s popularly known around London—is an English lady of the old school. Remarking, for example, that the hot water in her house has been out for two weeks, the founder of the venerable Browns boutiques says simply that she remembers the war, and how to boil a kettle. But since founding Browns in 1970, Burstein has taken a much more tender approach with the designers she’s nurtured, among them John Galliano, Hussein Chalayan and Marios Schwab, and Armani, Rykiel, Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein, all of whom she introduced to England. This year, Browns is celebrating its 40th anniversary by launching Browns pop-up shops around the world and introducing the Future Collectable line, which comprises archival and specially designed pieces by notable Browns-stocked designers like Stella McCartney, Balenciaga, Christian Louboutin, and Alexander Wang. (We’ve got a few sneak peeks, below.) Here, Mrs. B talks to Style.com about four decades of must-have finds.
What inspired you to open Browns?
Well, there wasn’t anything else around like it, you know. 1970, it was just the beginning of fashion in Britain. There was Yves Saint Laurent, and there was Biba. That’s it. I wanted to attract another customer. And to create a wonderful ambience and a natural feeling of shopping.
Was there a particularly English fashion sensibility you saw going unrepresented?
Oh—nothing like that. The English, we’re quite good at street fashion. But the old-fashioned, upper-class English women, they’re quite conservative. That’s if they bother about what they wear at all. No, they don’t embrace fashion; they have other priorities. School fees, the country house. I don’t judge whether that’s right or wrong, but it’s something you wouldn’t see in America, women with money being careless like that about their clothes. What I wanted to create at Browns—well, how do I say this? At the time, my children were enrolled at the Lycée Français, and there was a uniform, you know; cropped Shetland sweater, kilt, knee socks. And on the top, a Marks & Spencer raincoat tied at the back. Very smart. And I thought, this style, it’s great. That’s the image for Browns. And of course, I found what I was looking for in Paris.
Are there any particular high points, for you, in the history of Browns?
The discovery of the designers. Anytime I’ve found someone and thought—oh, I must have that, we must sell it! That’s exciting. As I said, it happened in Paris first, with people like Sonia Rykiel and Emmanuelle Khanh, and then it happened again in America. We introduced Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass. And later, Calvin and Donna and Ralph. It’s all timing, isn’t it, in fashion? You can be too early or you can be too late. We got to America at just the right time.
Well, no one was buying American fashion back then. Not internationally. Calvin, for example—he had a name in the States, but when we found him, his business wasn’t even set up for export. We had to train them. Ralph, too. Of course they were quite keen, but the relationship required nurturing. If you want to know what I’m proudest of, it’s that tradition at Browns, of nurturing new talent. And not just by buying. For example, you asked before about English fashion; what we’re really good at, where we really excel, is at producing raw talent. I make a real effort, still, to get out to all the degree shows and so on, because that’s where you find that kind of raw talent, you know. And I believe that when you find it, you help it along.