LONDON — Browns, the iconic London retailer that has built a reputation on spotting designers and trends on the distant horizon, has opened an alternative bridal boutique in Mayfair here.
Browns Bride stocks outfits for brides who could be getting married next week in St. Barths and needed a dress yesterday, fashion lovers who have to get married in Marc Jacobs and the traditional bride who long ago bought into the dream of the tiara and tulle veil.
“For every bride who wants a traditional dress, there are three who don’t,” said Caroline Collis, the daughter of Browns’ founders Joan and Sidney Burstein, and the brains behind the store. Collis founded the fragrance and skin care range Molton Brown in the early Nineties, and has been working at Browns on special projects such as Browns Focus, a store that carries lines by young fashion designers, for more than a decade.
“In the past, we had so many brides-to-be walk into Browns and ask for white dresses by their favorite designers,” she said. “Occasionally we were able to help them, but only to a certain extent because we’re traditionally cautious about buying white. And then we thought we were missing so many opportunities.”
Collis and the Browns buying team are working with designers such as Azzedine Alaiä, Jacobs and John Galliano to adapt dresses and separates from the runway collections for the store. During a walk-through of Browns Bridal, which opened recently on Brook Street, across from Claridge’s, she pointed to a pale peach dress with orange ruffles peeking from underneath.
“The dress was on Marc Jacobs’ spring runway, so it’s not even in the stores yet. But we knew we wanted a version of it when we opened,” said Collis. Zoran and Dolce & Gabbana are other designers who are working on adapting their designs for Browns Bride. “We started asking the designers to keep us in mind — and everyone has had a fantastic reaction so far.”
The dresses and separates are no more expensive than they would be at Browns, Harrods or Harvey Nichols. Collis pointed to a fluttery cream-colored Carlos Miele number with a plunging neckline and ruffled hemline. “It’s 600 pounds [$1,110] and could double as a summer cocktail dress.” The Jacobs dress costs $6,280, while Zoran’s long, pearlized skirt is $1,156 and the coordinating coat, $2,590. All figures are converted from the pound at current exchange.
The store, which spans 900 square feet over two floors, also carries more traditional wedding dresses from designers including Alberta Ferretti, Reem Acra, Emanuel Ungaro, Monique Lhuillier and Elspeth Gibson. Designed by the London-based Martin Brudnizki, who also refurbished Browns earlier this year, the space is bright and airy and decorated in shades of watery green, cream and beige.
“We wanted it to be Christian Dior Fifties salon meets Noel Coward, but with a contemporary feel,” said Brudnizki in an interview. “So on the ground floor we put in a big central mirror that divides the space into two salons. Downstairs the feel is more boudoir, more cocoon. The color scheme is the same, but with a thick, luxurious beige carpet.” Fixtures are fashioned from brushed brass and polished chrome.
The new store is in the former Comme des Garçons space and is owned by the Burstein family. Comme des Garçons has opened a new retail concept nearby, the Dover Street Market.
In addition to bridal outfits, Browns Bride also carries jewelry and accessories. The store features ultrasexy foot jewelry by Paris; sparkly Indian anklets; one-off bracelets and necklaces with ribbons and beads by Romy, and delicate jewels by Natasha Collis, Caroline’s jewelry-designer daughter.
“I wanted to bring in a lot of fun, funky things — so there’s very little traditional jewelry,” said Collis.
Collis said that when the store became vacant, there was really no question as to what belonged there. In fact, the feeling was a lot like recognizing Mr. Right. “We were thinking about different options, but the bridal thing felt right. It was a gut instinct.”