Browns: 40 Years of Fashion Innovation Review

Alexander McQueen
David Koma

Forget the jelly, put back the party poppers and don’t even think about playing musical chairs, this is a birthday party with a difference, as Browns has hit the big 4-0. Not content with letting the date pass unannounced, Mrs B and the team have descended upon Marshall Street, designer goodies in tow, and taken up residence at the Regent Penthouses for an extra special birthday exhibition. Entitled Browns: 40 years of Fashion Innovation, the exhibit draws from Mrs Burstein’s bulging book of contacts, featuring pieces from some of the most influential designers of our generation. With many items specially commissioned for the event, plus classic designs dug up from the Browns archives, this is one party you don’t want to be late for. And, the good news is, it’s free and open to all. Fiona Anderson went along to check out the biggest birthday bash in town.

With one step out of the concrete stairwell and onto the pale, polished floorboards of the Regent Penthouses and Lofts, it’s immediately apparent that, when Browns throws a party, they invite some seriously famous friends. Without a C-lister in sight, beautifully shot images, taken by photographer Paolo Roversi, of Galliano, Marc Jacobs and countless more line the vast, airy gallery like fashion royalty flags. Stark, white mannequins stand patiently beside each portrait, some sequinned up to the nines, some quilted, padded and puffy, and some in muted, contemporary looks, but all positively heaving with style, glamour and gloss. In the centre of the space, under a dim, naked bulb, sits an enormous open book, littered with fashion snaps and anecdotal scribblings, whilst off to the side is a set of glass cabinets, holding bejewelled shoes, priceless trinkets and vintage Browns magazines.

Round the corner, past Galliano and two hops from Erdem stands another fashion great, this time the late Alexander McQueen. With a trio of dresses stationed at the head of the exhibition, a particular highlight is a stunning black cocktail dress with gold winged shoulders, taken from the designer’s SS08 collection. Another winner is our own David Koma, with his black, sculpted, body con dress, complete with the curving, Perspex embellishment that stole the show on the Fashion Scout runway two seasons ago. Upstairs, the extensive collection continues, as more designers, models and muses adorn the crisp white walls. Yasmin Le Bon, Claudia Schiffer, Martin Margiela and Sonia Rykiel feature, as does a brilliant Ashish top and trouser set, complete with a life sized, multicoloured skeleton down the front. A portrait of Joan Burstein herself, along with her granddaughter, Charlotte Collis, also hangs proudly amidst the expanse of talent, hard work and history on display.

Brimming with design prowess of the highest pedigree, this exhibition, curated and conceived by Simon Costin, is soft, subtle and clean as a whistle. The pieces have been chosen with such precision, care and thought that even the surroundings, so still and tranquil, appear to echo the pieces on display. Never jarring, perfectly balanced and pleasantly understated, the exhibit is not only easy on the eye, but offers the chance to enjoy everything that’s special about Browns, without spending a penny. Pure heaven.