Browns AW19: grown-up classicism, new designers and knee-length boots
Browns has a busy AW19 ahead of it with the London luxury store planning multiple collaborations, a host of new-to-the-store labels, and a deeper dive into the High Performance category that it recently added to its webstore.
At a presentation in London on Tuesday, one thing buying director Ida Petersson told us is that a classic, grown-up style will be key for the new season and two of her top picks for the look are Bottega Veneta and Celine.
She’s very impressed with how Daniel Lee is developing at Bottega. “It was such a great new direction, very luxury but very classic,” she said. “He brought some of his experience from Celine, but also showcased himself as a designer. We had a very very strong Celine business and I do think that woman will go for Bottega.”
Not that the Celine business itself should drop off as she was also impressed by Hedi Slimane’s second Celine collection.
“It was the collection I really wanted the first one to be,” she explained. “I was so happy with it. It was still very Hedi and I’m a massive fan of him, but I felt [this time] he’d looked at Celine and who is the Celine woman and delivered on that. The sharpness of the tailoring and that softness and 70s vibe, from a trend perspective, that was the moment when I really thought ‘this is happening’.”
The retailer has also reintroduced Jil sander to target the same customer and she said “that has been crazily successful for us,” while she called out Chloé as one of the top AW19 collections too.
But it wasn’t only about classics and long-established labels. She was particularly enthusiastic about Marine Serre and London Fashion Week labels like Asai, Molly Goddard and Wales Bonner, which she said felt “refreshing and full of energy.”
Browns is well known for nurturing younger designers and as the fashion world (and fashion customer) becomes more global, these newer names are increasingly coming from far afield. In fact, Petersson was only just back from Shanghai Fashion Week (she felt it was “imperative” to be there) and said she “realised that it’s even bigger than I thought, the vast pool of talent there was really incredible.”
She was won over most by Angel Chen (“really owning that more fierce, more street angle”), plus both Samuel Gui Yang and Shushu/Tong (the latter of which Browns already stocks). She said they’re both “so elegant and different, we’re seeing that there’s something there for every woman, for every age.” Other strong names she saw there included Susan Fang, Percy Lau, Yvmin, Shuting Qiu and Xu Zhi.
Clearly, the company is casting its net wide for new talent (and its link-up with the BFC on the Newgen initiative also helps it do that). And Browns has a large number of brands that are new to retailer for next season, some of them very new names, others more established.
Batsheva, Bernadette and Usisi (actually founded by an ex-Browns buyer who left only last year) will all be on the rails for AW19, along with Tokyo-based Hyke, Berlin’s 032c, and Kirin, launched by influencer Peggy Gou.
Gou is especially interesting because of her appeal to a younger consumer and Petersson said of her: “Is she a traditional designer? No. Is she a tastemaker? Yes. She’s a woman who travels everywhere, she sees the coolest kids in the world all the time and she understands what they’re wearing and looking for, and that’s important to us.”
Another new name, Kenneth Ize, will be stocked in Browns’ menswear department. The Nigerian designer is being widely tipped to make a big future impact and Browns wanted to get in quickly, even before his new womenswear becomes widely available. “We thought it was really important to represent him before that,” Petersson said.
Among the better known labels new to the store will be Coperni, which is creatively headed by the former Courrèges duo Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, and Lemaire, another example of the drive for a cool kind of new classicism. “We’ve been watching Lemaire for a little while as we’re seeing a return to this new classicism,” Petersson said. “After the success we’ve had with labels like Jil Sander, it felt so perfect. It’s borrowing from menswear but it’s so well made and it fits women so well.”
The company will also have exclusive collaborations including Viktor & Rolf, Charles Jeffrey, Matériel, Amina Muaddi, Collina Strada, Ack, Staud and Zimmermann. And importantly too, its High Performance activewear initiative will see a capsule from Lapp (which “doesn’t do wholesale but we convinced her to do a capsule for us”) and Rapha, which has so far only sold through its own stores.
Any other insights? Just one. “Knee-high boots are finally back,” Petersson proclaimed. “We’ve been selling them for a more traditional customer, but it’s been so long since they were last ‘cool’. It’s nice to not just have the ankle boot and over-the-knee boot!”
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