LONDON — Browns has historically been a pioneer when it came to supporting young talent, with its founder, Joan Burstein often talked about as the driving force behind the careers of John Galliano, Hussein Chalayan, Manolo Blahnik and many more.
While the retailer has undergone a major revamp to adapt to the needs of the social media generation, its focus remains on championing emerging designers — the only difference being that now the Browns team tends to use Instagram to communicate with these up-and-coming names, while scouting is no longer limited to the four fashion capitals but can stretch as far as South Korea and Georgia.
Since taking on the helm as women’s wear buying director, Ida Petersson has already brought a number of young talents onto the Browns platform, including Wright Le Chapelain, Blindness and Shu Shu Tong. She has also spearheaded exclusive collaborations with the likes of Michael Halpern and Conner Ives, who is still a student at Central Saint Martins.
Now Browns is set to take its commitment to a new level, with the creation of a new department dedicated to scouting and, more importantly, providing support for young talent.
“I’ve always spoken about my passion for helping young designers, but we now need to own this in a bigger way. Picking up a brand is not enough, you have to be there and help them,” said Petersson, who also highlighted that the company has revisited its payment terms when it comes to these young businesses, in order to facilitate their growth.
The payment terms set by some retailers often put a strain on young businesses, which have to invest a lot into production of retailers’ orders and wait months for remuneration.
For fall, the retailer has tapped 28 emerging labels from around the world.
Highlights include a crop of gender-less brands bought alongside the men’s buying team, including Ader Error formed by a South Korean design collective; Telfar, and GMBH, known for its cult following and references to Berlin’s rave scene.
Other notable names coming to Browns include the likes of Delada by Russian designer and Gosha Rubchinskiy contemporary Lada Komarova, Kassl known for its raincoats and Miaou, a brand which is said to offer “what every digitally savvy girl wants to wear” with its playful take on staples such as denim and daywear dresses.
LVMH Prize winner Marine Serre and Supriya Lele, who showed her collection as part of Fashion East in London this year, are also joining Browns, alongside A Plan Application, a brand which started off by showing in a “dingy Off-White basement showroom” and is setting out to create easy ready-to-wear pieces with touches of androgyny and street. Naturally, the brand’s affiliation with Virgil Abloh and limited online presence are fueling a lot of anticipation for the Browns launch.
Elsewhere the retailer is expanding its resortwear offer — a category launched by Petersson last year — with 12 brand additions such as Chufy, Cult Gaia and Adriana Degreas.
The contemporary accessories department is in growth mode as well. “We cannot avoid the concept of the “It” bag anymore. It’s that sweet spot of 300 to 350 pounds that is creating unprecedented demand from the customer and we’ve seen a lot of evolution in the space from talented, young names,” said Petersson, pointing to the likes of Wandler, Tara Zadeh, Staud, Danse Lente and Rejina Pyo, as leaders in the category. “Brands like Manu Atelier and Simon Miller, who set the trend, are still there and still very important.”
To highlight the trend, the retailer is creating a series of exclusive bag styles with each designer.
Another name to note is Alexandre Vauthier, who is having a moment as of late and leading the Eighties trend that ruled the fall runways. Browns said that it made strategic sense to start working with the brand now, as the partnership presents an opportunity to grow the thriving eveningwear business it has with Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain.