Angel Chen RTW Fall 2019

LONDON — Browns has been translating its approach to a host of categories beyond traditional luxury.

The British retailer has been putting more focus on vintage labels that offer one-off, upcycled pieces; emerging brands sourced from fringe fashion weeks; couture; customizable fine jewelry, or on the other end of the spectrum, high-performance.

While these categories vary in price point and target audience, the company is aiming to maintain a common thread by adding its own lighthearted spirit on all launches.

In the case of high-performance — which is making its debut across the men’s and women’s departments — the focus has been on bringing together fashion-forward pieces with sports labels that have, in many cases, never worked with a fashion-led retailer before.

Head of men’s wear buying Dean Cook said it’s no longer unusual for performance and luxury fashion labels to sit next to each other on the shop floor, as the mix simply “reflects a customer’s lifestyle.” His edit for the category focuses on the worlds of cycling, running and hiking, with technical labels such as Pas Normal, POC and Soar as well as fitness and training items.

Browns has also tapped Rapha, the British performance cycling apparel brand, which is working with a luxury fashion wholesale partner for the first time.

In the women’s department, the retailer’s buying director Ida Petersson also sprinkled a range of more trendy activewear pieces from luxury giants such as Versace or buzzy labels like Misbhv and Lapp, the activewear line by Victoria’s Secret model Leomie Anderson, which does not usually work with wholesale partners but is set to launch an exclusive capsule for the retailer.

“It’s a continuous process, so we’re starting with 25 brands but by the end of fall 2019, there will probably be way more than that. The idea was to launch the category in a Browns way and represent the more laid-back side of our clientele,” said Petersson. “If you look at a brand like Misbhv, most people associate it with people wearing it on Instagram and going out partying, but actually it’s true performance. At the end of the day, you can choose to wear it for sport or not, but we want to be able to offer the option to our customers and cover everything from traditional yoga and gym gear to surfing, basketball or cycling, because that’s how our customers do things.”

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Petersson has been updating the retailer’s fashion offer by looking outside the traditional fashion calendar. There are two pop-ups set to make their debuts at Browns’ Mayfair store later this year that will offer Victor & Rolf couture pieces to customers, as well as a selection of sustainable, vintage pieces by the likes of One Vintage, Rentrayage and Rave Review, a Copenhagen-based brand that offers one-off, upcycled pieces at contemporary price points.

“It’s important to be able to offer that to the younger customer who might not be able to afford Stella McCartney or One Vintage,” added Petersson, pointing to the importance of educating customers about lesser-known, sustainable labels through initiatives such as the South Molton Street pop-up. “We want to empower customers to make choices that are better because there are plenty of brands doing better right now. There are some names everyone knows like Stella McCartney or Veja, but a lot of under-the-radar brands, too, so it’s important to educate them.”

Petersson has been focusing the women’s buy on labels from emerging markets as varied as Lagos, Nigeria; Berlin; Shanghai; Tokyo, and Tbilisi, Georgia.

During Shanghai Fashion Week last month, the Browns team picked up labels such as Angel Chen, Percy Lau, Samuel Guì Yang, Yvmin, Shushu Tong and Shuting Qiu.

Petersson said the appeal was in the different types of women these brands cater to and the new energy they bring to the table. “These designers are proud to be Chinese and they don’t feel like they need to establish themselves in Europe,” she added.

Berlin is another talent hub the retailer has been paying close attention to, picking up the new women’s line by 032c and hair accessories label Wald Berlin, created by the former model Joyce Binneboese and stylist Dana Roski.

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