10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Joan Burstein’

You may recognize Joan Burstein as the female entrepreneur behind the world-renowned fashion boutique, ‘Browns’. Her innovative approach to retail and keen eye for fashion trends have made her a respected figure in high-end fashion. Here are ten things you might not know about the fashion maven, Joan Burstein.

1. Starting Out as a School Teacher

Before venturing into the world of fashion, Joan Burstein initially started her career as a school teacher. She worked during World War II, educating younger children in London. Her natural affinity for creative arts, which had shown up early in her life, was soon directed towards the colorful world of fashion.

Eventually, Joan and her late husband Sidney shifted their focus to a career in fashion retailing, starting with a knitwear store titled “Feathers.” This school teacher transitioned smoothly into a fashion icon whose legacy continues to shape the fashion industry.

2. Discovering John Galliano

Joan Burstein is notably credited for discovering John Galliano when he was still an emerging talent. In the early ’80s, Galliano, a graduate of Saint Martin’s School of Art, had caught the eye of Joan with his innovative designs and unique perspective on fashion.

Joan bought his entire graduation collection, thus setting off his career on the world stage. Galliano’s unique designs became one of the main attractions at Browns, which helped both the store and the designer earn their spot in the high-end fashion world.

3. Opening of Browns

In 1970, Joan and Sidney opened their world-famous shop, ‘Browns’, on South Molton Street in London. Despite entering the scene during one of the fashion industry’s most competitive eras, Browns quickly made its mark with its innovative ‘shop-in-shop’ concept – This was yet another of Joan’s pioneering ideas that transformed brick-and-mortar retail fashion shopping.

Browns stood out for stocking young, avant-garde designers alongside established fashion houses – a result of Joan’s visionary thinking. The boutique quickly became a go-to for global fashionistas and continues to hold a prestigious reputation in the fashion industry.

4. Lifetime Achievement Awards

In recognition of her contributions to the fashion industry, Joan has been honored several times over the years. In 2010, the British Fashion Council awarded her with a Special Recognition Award to celebrate her career. The following year, she was honored again, this time with The Luxury Briefings Annual Special Recognition Award.

In 2016, Joan was awarded the Luxury Briefing Award for Lifetime Achievement. These accolades are a testament to her innovative work and lasting impact on the fashion industry.

5. Launching Donna Karan

Another remarkable accomplishment by Joan was the introduction of American designer, Donna Karan, to the European market. After establishing Browns as a prime platform for young and upcoming talent, Joan brought Donna Karan’s collection to Browns in 1985. This paved the way for Karan’s global success.

Joan’s keen eye for emerging talent and her willingness to take risks in fashion helped not only to establish Donna Karan as a world-renowned designer but also affirmed Browns’ status as a hotbed of innovation in high fashion.

6. Remain a Family Business

Despite its global reputation, Browns remains very much a family business. Joan’s daughter, Caroline Burstein, is the creative director of the company, while her son Simon has also been closely associated with the business. This family connection has allowed Browns to keep its unique approach to retail, with a distinct emphasis on quality and personal service.

In 2015, the Burstein family transferred control of Browns to Farfetch, a luxury digital platform, but both Joan and Caroline have remained involved in the business, helping it keep its distinct familial feel while embracing new technologies.

7. Innovation in Retail Store Concepts

Browns was more than just a retail store. One of its key attractions was its unique ‘shop-in-shop’ concept that brought numerous designers under one roof without compromising their individualistic styles – an idea credited to Joan.

This innovation in retail, coupled with the distinctively homely atmosphere emanating from its Georgian townhouse location, positioned Browns as an industry trendsetter. It showcased not only Joan’s business acumen but also her understanding of seamless customer experiences in retail.

8. The Far Fetch Acquisition

Despite enjoying its independence for most of its life, Browns was acquired by luxury brand online platform Farfetch in 2015. However, Joan and her family continued to be closely associated with the operation and direction of the store.

The acquisition was seen as a move in line with an increasingly digital era, and the Burstein family considered it a strategic step towards embracing technology while keeping the essence of Browns intact.

9. Her Enduring Personal Style

Joan’s elegant yet practical personal style serves as a testament to her refined taste and understanding of fashion. Often photographed in chic, timeless pieces, her distinctive and enduring style has served as an inspiration for many in the fashion industry and beyond.

Never one to follow trends blindly, Joan’s style perfectly highlights her understanding that fashion should be personal and not dictated by current fads and trends. Her enduring style, both in her personal wardrobe and her business, continues to inspire fashion enthusiasts.

10. Her Impact on the Fashion Industry

Joan Burstein’s impact on the fashion industry can be seen not just in her successful retail business but also in the careers of the many designers and brands she has championed over the years.

Her eye for unique talent, combined with her willingness to take risks, has made her a catalyst for change within the industry, whether that means putting a previously overlooked designer on the world stage or revolutionizing retail with her innovative ‘shop-in-shop’ concept. Joan’s contributions to the fashion world are particularly impressive, making her an enduring icon in the industry.

Useful links:

Vogue Article on Joan Burstein
Fashion Roundtable’s feature on Joan Burstein
Business of Fashion’s Profile of Joan Burstein
Browns Fashion