LONDON — Browns is taking its show on the road and preparing to launch its first retail project outside its home turf in Los Angeles.
But in line with its ongoing quest to redefine what luxury means today, Browns’ upcoming L.A. pop-up has a 21st-century spin. In what is a retail first, the famous British boutique is joining forces with Fred Segal and opening a store-in-store in the famed L.A. retailer’s Sunset Boulevard space.
This is the next iteration of Browns’ fluid retail “nomad” concept — introduced last year with a new space in East London — and the aim is to keep piquing customers’ curiosities and evolving the shop floor experience.
“Everybody’s ideas about what luxury retail should look like have started to shift and I feel that we have to be forbearers of that [evolution],” said Holli Rogers, Browns’ chief executive officer, in an exclusive interview.
Partnering with another retailer, instead of competing with them, was a way for Rogers to stay true to the open-minded approach she has been applying across Browns’ strategy.
“The concept of retailer on retailer is an interesting one. I loved the idea because, one, it’s totally unexpected,” she added. “When you’re forging a new path, you don’t necessarily see yourself as competition; it’s more about doing something different and giving the customers something new, in a space they didn’t have access to previously.”
By maintaining this strong sense of individuality, it also becomes easier to forge such alternative partnerships and ensure that both parties can still stay true to their respective identities, according to Rogers. “I always felt that there is no reason why you can’t work with somebody who’s got a really clear vision of what their aesthetic is. What I respect about a lot of the global boutiques is that they kind of intrinsically become the people who run them in some way, shape or form. They have a really strong point of view and that’s the differentiator. We’re not in department stores, which are definitely in competition with one another.”
John Frierson, Fred Segal’s president, echoed Rogers, explaining that even if Fred Segal gives its partners free rein to take over its pop-up space, it can simultaneously maintain its own point of view through curation.
“Inventive pop-ups are not a marketing concept for Fred Segal. It really is our whole business, bringing newness and different perspectives to life. This is just taking [the concept] to the next level,” said Frierson, adding that his aim here was to partner with a like-minded team and introduce the London point of view to L.A. “It somehow all holds together as a Fred Segal perspective by the way we curate and partner with people.”
Rogers and Frierson decided to work together on the heels of a conversation, which led them to discover many parallels between their respective companies and a similar mentality as to what the evolution of retail looks like.
“There’s a lot of mutual respect as both our companies are similar ages and have been forging new territory in their respective spaces,” said Rogers, explaining that the pop-up offers their take on how to engage the consumer in a modern, relevant way.
“What really got us excited was realizing how Browns in London and Fred Segal in L.A. both serve as hubs for the creative lifestyle, people, and community. We thought that, in this new world, we could bring these communities together,” Frierson added.
For Browns, whose nomad concept has been designed to travel to different locations in response to what’s going on in the industry, L.A. also presents a robust market to speak to, given all the attention it’s been getting as of late, with the migration of creatives from the East to the West Coast and the rapid development of areas such as Silver Lake and Echo Park.
“Apart from my personal connection to L.A. and the synergies between our companies, we had to think whether we have a market to talk to,” Rogers said. “There was a lot of feedback from people telling us that our selection of product is different to anything else out there in the market. And from a creative standpoint, the energy is aligned with us, there’s a strong connection between L.A. and London, with so many creatives living here and working in L.A.”
She added that by creating this experiential space, the retailer wants to engage with locals, heighten brand awareness and keep interacting with them online even after the pop-up is over. “I think by virtue of being there, we will raise the awareness of the store. Like who is this great British talent we need in our lives? And from there, they can’t not be inquisitive about online, too.”
To make its presence felt, the retailer is pulling out all the creative stops, offering a men’s and women’s wear edit filled with key up-and-coming names and some of the most successful concepts from its Browns East space, including gender-neutral merchandising, ever-evolving shop floors and a meditation space.
“Obviously shopping is paramount, but it was important for us to integrate experiential elements into the space,” Rogers said. “You are trying to show product, you are trying to show who and what you stand for, but you also need to give your customer reason to linger.”
Retail design firm Brinkworth, which has also worked with the likes of Supreme and Fiorucci, created a fully mobile space, featuring temporary fixtures and furniture made using recycled materials. There are heavy-duty trolleys used as rails, industrial shelves displaying accessories and splashes of color across the space.
The idea was to create an environment that channels Browns’ high-low aesthetic and can be easily interchangeable throughout its eight-week residency at Fred Segal.
There’s also a custom music playlist created with Mixcloud, while a quiet corner in the space will offer a 15-minute guided meditation created specifically for this location by Chris Connors of BeBox, who has previously worked with the retailer on an immersive meditation experience for its East London outpost.
From his part, Frierson said it was important to give the Browns team freedom to experiment. “We have an open-sourced approach to business. We really do let the brands, or in this case a retailer, do their own thing. By giving them a really long leash, we get a better performance and a lot more exciting creativity from our partners.”
The selection Browns is taking to L.A. has a strong, creative British flair, with names such as Molly Goddard or Central Saint Martins student Conner Ives, headlining the edit. But it also highlights a wide range of international up-and-coming designers, the aim being to introduce the L.A. consumer to new names and aesthetics they might not have had access to before.
“We had to think what we can bring to L.A. with a view that we understand the lifestyle,” Rogers said. “We are not coming at you with 10,000 sequin gowns because everybody’s got an Academy Award season they have to think about for a minute. There will be some of that, because we love a bit of Michael Halpern, but also pieces that can be worn every day, that are cool and different. Everybody understands and appreciates that value now.”
Highlights in the offer include Berlin-based Rianna + Nina, known for their colorful kimono robes; South Korean labels Low Classic and Charm’s, which has also collaborated with heritage sport’s brand Kappa; By Timo, known for its romantic, floral dresses, and Tiger in the Rain, which offers repurposed vintage pieces. The men’s edit is filled with some of the buzziest British labels, including Liam Hodges, Martine Rose, Edward Crutchley and Wales Bonner.
“There are a lot of interesting brands that people might not have heard of. Educating is another element that has been an intrinsic part of Browns in my estimation. It’s really important to inspire people,” Rogers added.
Inspiration, and also celebration, have been two ongoing themes for Browns’ Stateside move. To mark the opening of the pop-up the retailer is unveiling a new logo, featuring a hand-drawn heart between the two retailers’ names and a big campaign across social media that puts the spotlight on love. There will also be a launch event on Sept. 5 with performances, DJ gigs and the promise of a late-night party.
“It’s not something we do all the time, but when [a project] really sits with our core and feels like something we want the consumer to connect with, that’s when we do things to this scale,” Rogers said. “At the end of the day, people only have so much time in their lives and when they give it to you, it’s quite special. You have to give them the most for their time.”