There’s a new luxury retail destination in town and it’s a storied Mayfair townhouse that features a heady mix of culture, community and the latest personalised tech-led shopping services. DRG retail editor, ALISON FARRINGTON reports…
Apart from the appealing fact that visiting an actual store is somewhat of a novelty as we emerge post-pandemic, we are about to enter a new era of phygital retail. Phygital 2.0 plays to the strengths of being inside a physical boutique environment – all the trappings of tangible and joyous purchases plus social interaction – while having frictionless digital retail services at your fingertips.
Launching on 12 April, at a reinvented flagship location, Browns Brook Street is the manifestation of owner, Farfetch’s visionary ‘Store of the Future’ omnichannel strategy that we first heard about in 2017.
Holli Rogers, Chair, Browns says the new store is designed to inspire customers as well as usher in a fundamental shift in the way people shop. “Layered into this connected, tech-enabled experience is a thoughtful and human side – which is so crucial in the current landscape where personal and personalisation is pivotal.”
The store itself features an interior by design studio, Dimorestudio. The brief was to retain the historical fabric of the building while conveying a new modernity with the Browns retail personality. The result is contemporary with juxtaposed finishings; metallic hanging structures reflect on the black floor tiles, while custom wallpaper depicts faded floral Victorian patterns to contrast the essential, clean cut lines of the furnishings and lighting.
The designer roster is as you would expect from a global luxury retail brand house. Merchandise fuses hero pieces with local talent and champions a conscious approach to fashion, as well as food, art, design and architecture. The edit errs on the side of edgy with more pieces available online than actually in-store – a strategy designed to blend the physical and digital shopping experience according to Customer Experience Director Lee Whittle, who says this approach means Browns can connect with its clients in a tailored way, with service at the forefront.
Aside from all the tech updates finally coming to fruition thanks to the long-term investment from Farfetch, I am loving the seamless integration of digital in a space that looks set to thrive on human emotion. There’s tons of character in this old Colefax & Fowler building with sweeping staircases and chintzy aristo vibes, and the historical references have literally been sewn back into the fabric of the building. Plus, we have the option to dip into modern social glamour at the Native restaurant in the courtyard that promises a seasonal foraging menu and a side of crowd watching.
This all begs the question: what is the reason for visiting a luxury fashion flagship today? How does Browns Brook Street reflect the new luxury retail landscape?
1/ RETAIL THEATRE. Welcome back to the aesthetically pleasing combination of old-school chintz and grand Grade II* listed architecture that’s mixed with contemporary new age fixtures and fittings. There’s the hipster touch we know and love from a Browns Focus edit, escalating up to an edgier selection of mainline luxury brand names.
2/ CULTURE MEETS COMMERCE. Luxury shopping has a new backdrop: the art world. With key designer pieces displayed as art, the customer moves into a more rarefied gallery environment. Private views for collection launches from the likes of Marine Serre focus on the installation and seasonal opportunity, with an option to purchase for guestlist clientele.
3/ SEAMLESS DIGITALISATION. RIP to cash tills. Browns proposes a more frictionless retail experience with invisible tech in-store working alongside style advisers and ‘flexible delivery’ options courtesy of the Farfetch network. So, all the clunky bits of luxury shopping are taken care of with services such as try-now and deliver at home later or one-click payments, leaving the customer to make the most of a more humanised and emotive time in the retail space.
4/ PERSONALISATION. There’s a ‘plethora of personalised shopping experiences’ in-store. We’ve seen the magic mirrors displaying customer preferences, the latest in-store tech runs to enabling shoppers to call up items on their wishlist ahead of a store visit. Coming soon is an augmented reality experience for trying on sneakers and jewellery. The tech is there for Browns to get to know its customers better: the lines are blurred between online convenience and offline discovery, amplified by a curated store experience.
5/ COMMUNITY. Aka membership, this feels like a smart, tech-enabled, elite shopping club in the way that Soho House started for the media industry. Browns has achieved a similar edict for luxury fashionistas and exclusivity is given new agency within the confines of the various VIC – very important customers – suites. The Club on the top floor provides a haven for top spending clients and includes The Parlour Bar and three personal shopping suites; Jimi, Joan and Nancy, paying homage to residents of the past. Events are also planned for this space and will follow on from the Browns ‘Residencies’ online programme that kicked off in October 2020, and celebrates creative personalities.
Will I visit? Hell yes. Digital democratisation is fine if you’re shopping via Amazon or Alibaba, but I’m intrigued by the air of exclusivity within the freshly painted walls at Browns Brook Street. I’m looking forward to tracking how the Browns Nomad store initiative develops with a Mayfair brief – time for a fresh perspective on localised curated luxury for London’s global customer base.
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WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Alison Farrington
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