Mrs B commands a majestic entrance, coming up on to the dramatically lit stage of the evening talk in her name at London's Arts Club. If not for the dark dress (Lanvin, beautifully tailored) and unusual, striking jewellery, I would swear I might have mistaken her for a matriarch of a more majestic sort.
Mrs B is a true lady. Her refined presence, vivacious spirit, life-lived humour and a softly spoken voice conceal determined authority. She is the lady of the Browns fashion establishment - Joan Burstein, the founder who built Browns into the iconic destination it has become, nurturing young talent along with it.
Finding young talent is still Mrs B's trademark, from, quite literally, finding Calvin Klein on the floor of Studio54 when partying in New York, to convincing yet another unknown - Ralph Lauren, to take some of their designs to the UK to Browns: 'I remember Ralph Lauren telling me that 'I'm not Calvin, I could never be as wealthy as him'.
Sonya Rykiel was amongst the early design icons launched at Browns: "I fell in love with the clothes of Sonia Rykiel. This woman had a real vision. Her sweaters and flowing trousers are still a trademark". Missoni and Donna Karan were among other brands that Browns stayed loyal to through the fashion decades.
Mrs B praises Husseyn Chalayan for his intellectual designs, McQueen, for the breathtakingly beautiful collections, John Galliano for his first show - " unbelievable, a boy expressing freedom. Everything was cotton, striped shirts. I sold the entire first collection" Asked, however, about his future, she quietly remarks "Galliano is gone for good".
Mrs B continues to be the progressive modern thinker today, championing new designers. She comments that most are discovered in the London colleges: "A lot of talent is here already". Young designers of London, pay attention. In fact, the emerging London label WRQ.e.d have managed to get a piece of Mrs B's attention after the talk. Good for them.
It would be impossible to write a post without quoting Mrs B, she speaks in a manner that leaves you spell-bound and in the sort of length that glorifies the existence of Twitter. Here are some bite-sized remarks:
"There is always luck in life. As you go through life, you create relationships and if you are honourable and honest, these relationships will help you survive".
"At the Lycee where my kids have studied, there was a look: short cropped Shetland sweater, a kilt and knee socks and rain coat from M&S. They had to tie it at the back. That to me was style. Simple but brilliant".
"I believe in individual style, how people feel within them. Keep fit! Try to be individual. Always try to find something that people can focus on, like jewellery or an accessory".
"If you have money, spend it, you can't take it with you".
"You've got to really love what you are wearing. Clothes have to make you feel good, otherwise they shouldn't be in your wardrobe"
Browns is a tribe, run by the forward thinking and inspirational Mrs B and continued by the family members. Her son, daughter and granddaughter are in the business, driving it forward into the new online adventure.
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