Tonight, 80 guests including Oscar de la Renta and Eva Herzigova will meander through the Browns: 40 Years of Fashion Innovation exhibition in London’s Soho. But during yesterday’s press preview, it was just Fashionista, a clutch of set designers adjusting the lighting, a team of caterers perfecting the non-alcoholic apple mojitos…and some seriously breathtaking clothes.
The iconic British boutique is marking its 40th anniversary with a multimedia fashion exhibition uniting photography, video, archival material and garments from its four decades in business.
Paolo Roversi photographed 40 Browns Ambassadors (a mix of designers and model/actor/musician friends of the store) modeling favorite pieces from the boutique’s history for a series of dreamy portraits, exhibited alongside mannequins dressed in the garments each subject chose to wear.
There are portraits of Marc Jacobs in a dove gray ultrasuede Halston coat from 1972, Claudia Schiffer wearing an Erdem babydoll dress from 2007, and Gareth Pugh looking very Sasha Fierce in a jagged-necklined purple blazer and PVC trousers by Thierry Mugler. And then the mannequins–it’s satisfying to get a 360-degree look at the garments only hinted at in so many of the photos.
Browns founder Joan Burstein–affectionately known as Mrs. B–is famed for her keen eye for emerging talent. She championed John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan when few other retailers were bold enough to take chances on the untested designers.
The entertaining captions serve as further evidence of Browns’ influential place in British fashion. A black silk shantung dress with gold-embroidered shoulder pieces from McQueen’s SS 2008 show comes to the exhibition “by kind loan courtesy of the honorable Daphne Guinness.”
Mrs. B loaned pieces from her own wardrobe as well–her archive is so vast that she keeps a separate apartment below her penthouse, just for clothes.
It’s also striking how current so many of the pieces seem. A black silk dress with lace insets from Chloe s/s 1971, when Karl Lagerfeld designed the line, was one item I wanted to (lovingly) tear off the mannequin and change into, right in the middle of the exhibition floor. But then, all of the pieces beg to be worn with pride.
Take a look at some of the first images of the exhibition. Which pieces make you swoon?