August 23 2014

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3 posts tagged "Mrs. B"

Ask The Experts: Favorites Of London Fashion Week


London fashion week is drawing to a close, and the fashion set is headed for Milan tomorrow, where Gucci opens the week. But as we’ve scooted around town for the innumerable parties, shows, presentations, and teas (this is London, after all), we’ve been asking everyone along to name their picks. Below, a few of London’s finest sound off on what they liked.

“I thought Peter Pilotto was outstanding.” —Jefferson Hack (He was cautious to add, “But it’s not over yet—a lot more could happen.”)

“The bags at Topshop were amazing, and it had a lot of tasseled dresses and swimsuits. I really, really liked it.” —Julia Restoin-Roitfeld

“I saw Erdem, which was beautiful. The whole setting was perfect for it and what a perfect day for it! I [also] liked Roksanda [Illincic]. The colors were beautiful and also the fabrics she used were so soft.” —Browns’ Mrs. B

“I’ve loved a lot of things, actually. Meadham Kirchhoff, I thought was amazing. I thought they really honed their aesthetic—[there was] some continuity of what they did last season but better, I think. Also, I really, really loved Holly Fulton, Erdem, Louise Gray, Richard Nicoll…the list goes on, to be honest!” —Style Bubble’s Susie Lau

“My absolute favorite, hands down, has been Meadham Kirchhoff (left), without a doubt! It was so excellently executed, so beautifully layered. The colors were amazing. They basically did what Courtney Love should have done back in the nineties!” —Browns buyer Erin Mullaney

Photo: Marcus Tondo /

If Only All Ambassadors Dressed Like This


Browns has been an English institution for four decades now. Mrs. B isn’t one to let an occasion like that go under-celebrated. For the store’s 40th anniversary, the pioneering retailer—who brought Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Sonia Rykiel to England and was an early booster of Hussein Chalayan and Marios Schwab—put together an exhibition, opening tomorrow, of 40 Browns “ambassadors” in finery pulled from its archives. Paolo Roversi shot Marc Jacobs in Halston (above), Eva Herzigova in Mark Fast, and Ann Demeulemeester in her own collection (both below), among many others. And as for Mrs. B herself? The lady chose Marni for her close-up (bottom, left). Continue Reading “If Only All Ambassadors Dressed Like This” »

Browns’ Mrs. B On English Matrons, French Schoolgirls, And Young London’s Fashion Victims


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 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.

How so?
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.

Continue Reading “Browns’ Mrs. B On English Matrons, French Schoolgirls, And Young London’s Fashion Victims” »