We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one. At times, it can be impulsive and entertaining; at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend, and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in the fashion industry with our column, "How I Shop."
Laura Brown is so much more than a fashion editor. In her role as Harper's Bazaar executive editor, she basically conceptualizes and then wrangles the magazine's cover stories and stars. But then Brown is pretty much a star in her own right — although not a street style star, mind you, as she'll explain below. She frequently shares her candid fashion insight with viewers on "Good Morning America," "Entertainment Tonight" and E!" and hosts her own YouTube series "The Look" and "‘In and Out of Fashion," which debuts on Apple TV's M2M network on October 20. Plus, her Instagram feed documenting her life, work and famous BFFs is insanely addictive and hilarious, not to mention filled with her shopping finds that conveniently illustrate this story.
Sitting in Brown's sun-filled office on the 25th floor of the imposing Hearst Tower, I was trying hard to not get distracted by a wall of photos of the editor mugging with celebs that have graced the magazine's pages, a lineup of "Game of Thrones" figurines on the bookshelf and a framed photo of herself being enveloped in a warm hug by the great Oprah Winfrey. But then it's impossible to not get drawn into Brown's mile-a-minute way of talking, punctuated by her infectiously enthusiastic descriptors, deadpan tongue-in-cheek statements and smooth Aussie accent that makes everything sound just so lovely. She was also debuting a new pair of black and gold heeled sandals, which were a perfect way to kick off our conversation.
"Okay, these shoes are Dries van Noten and I bought these in, like, a burst. I have a surge strategy for shopping. I'm pretty chill about it, mostly, but I'll go to a shoe sale at Barneys and I'll buy five or six pairs and I'll just go kind of mental. This was one of five, I think, that I bought this particular day. There was a Miu Miu and a Marc Jacobs and a whatever, so I just go on this sort of jag. Because honestly, I have a really hard time paying full price for a pair of shoes. A thousand dollars for a pair of shoes? No matter how much money you earn — because I'm obviously unbelievably wealthy — but I just can't. I'm lucky enough that I get a discount on Net-a-Porter or My Theresa and, I know designers, obviously, but when I'm sitting there with my own money in my wallet, I buy all my shoes on sale.
I'm not strategic at all when it comes to shopping. Also, I think it's different for me because I'm pretty basic. I'm a jeans and T-shirt-y top kind of girl. I feel my best in them, I feel more in command of myself and I feel more attractive. I like to be able to walk easily. I'm very fast. I walk fast; I talk fast; I work fast. As much as I admire pencil skirt people, I can't. It's just so skirt-y. I find it a bit limiting. I've always mythologized denim and I'm not some weird Levi's selvedge fetishist or anything like that. I just think it's the easiest way to look chic.
I do go on jags though and I went on this huge bender in Palm Springs at this vintage store called Wonderama and it is a wonder. I bought five Hawaiian shirts and muumuu dresses. I've been wearing them all summer. I just bought one off-the-shoulder red and white Hawaiian print dress — that picture with Leandra [Medine, above] last night — and there's a blue one. The first Hawaiian shirt I bought almost looked like it was Prada, with black with flowers on them. You put them on with dark denim and you kind of look like festive.
'A big long floral thing,' which Glenda [Bailey, Harper's Bazaar editor-in-chief] always says to me because I sometimes come in wearing a big long floral dress. She's always like, [doing a spot-on imitation of Bailey's British lilt] 'Oh.' Because she's so not used to me in that. She goes [again in the accent], ‘oh, I forgot that you were into that because you're supposed to be zipping around in the jeans.' I really confuse Glenda with my looks in summer.
Or sometimes I'll find a T-shirt that I think is just the perfect T-shirt and I'll buy like eight. The best T-shirts, by the way, two things: Jac & Jack, which is an Australian brand, has the best linen T-shirts ever. The best striped T-shirts are by another Australian brand called Bassike. Great fabric, the perfect stripe, all different dimensions.
Also, my favorite T-shirt line is Être Cécile. My friend Yasmin [Sewell] runs it and I did a collaboration with them a couple years ago. They do the best little slogans.
I also love those tourist T-shirts, like 'I heart Paris' or 'I heart Berlin' or anything from an airport store. I have a Mickey Mouse Eurodisney T-shirt. I just love all that stuff. I'm mentally eight.
Recently, I bought two tops from this brand that I've never even heard of, Cecilie Copenhagen. I saw them on Instagram. I was just in Sweden and a friend of mine had one of their dresses and it's quite Isabel Marant-ish. It's off-the-shoulder with a ruffle and a linen-y print, so I bought really great off-the-shoulder tops.
I find out about everything on Instagram. Be it from fashion brands to ideas for stories to artists to street artists to so many ideas I get. There was a pair of jeans and a bag that an Italian fashion editor put up and she came back saying the jeans are from H&M, so a bunch of my friends went to buy these jeans. I was having dinner in L.A. with my friend Nora Zehetner, who's an actress and a very great dresser, and she had a jumpsuit on and I thought, 'what is it?' and she said, 'it’s Topshop.' And then you have that weird possession, like 'I must find it.' I went down and found it and, of course, being me, I'm like, 'everyone has to buy this.' So I take a picture against the wall over there and tell everyone, 'yes, you have to buy it.' It's like a community service. So now I also have it in blue. When I get a kick from a high street, I'm so excited and everybody needs to know.
The best jeans, by the way, are Acne Shores, Acne Boy, really good. J Brand Maria — they're skinnies. I obviously only have 48 pairs of jeans. But then again, I'd rather at least get obsessed buying jeans than get obsessed with buying couture dresses. Because that ain't gonna end well.
I think my first investment purchase was a Rick Owens coat, which I bought about five years ago and I still love and I have not regretted that at all. It makes me feel quite brooding, which I'm so not. I think that was my 'baby's first investment.' Lately, I have been investing in furniture because I just moved, so you'll be seeing me at Fashion Week in lots of joke T-shirts and jeans probably. But I've got a really nice couch! I’ll be in muumuus and Hawaiian shirts. Don't think I won't.
It's funny because Fashion Week starts to loom on you — and this is how my brain goes — because everyone's on vacation and then you start looking at the fall things and then you start to get your heart rate up. Then you think to yourself, 'Laura Brown, you've got tons of clothes, you don't need more clothes.' I'm not a street style sort of person anyway. I don't dress to get photographed, but often I'm with a friend who is one, which is always funny. I like to yell at the street style photographers and go 'Yasmin Sewell! Look here, everybody!' It's so fun and they're mortified. I'm going to buy a little Saint Laurent over-the-shoulder black bag, just because I need one because I've got a couple of satchels that are a little banged up. It's just more portable. I certainly don't need shoes. I certainly don't need jeans. I might see something at a sale, but I don't plan. Sometimes I'm like, 'maybe I should put outfits out.' I end up just like going into my closet going 'eh, yeah.' It's fine. I like to under think it."
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Homepage photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images