Earlier this week we heard the very sad news that Sidney Burstein, co-founder of Browns boutique with his wife Joan, had passed away. Mr B, as he was affectionally known to employees and customers, was an inspirational character, who was still a regular on the shop floor in his 90s.
The son of a Russian father and Polish mother, Sidney was born in England and started laying the foundations of Browns, at the age of just 31, when he, Joan and his brother Willie opened a shop in Kingston Applemarket called Wilbuer, selling underwear. From there they followed with the first branch of Neatawear in Maidenhead which grew into a high street fashion chain aimed at young women. But when that business collapsed, the three weren’t deterred and they set up Feathers, which is still a shopping destination in west London.
In 1970 the Bursteins’ son, Simon, was working part-time in a shop on South Molton Street belonging to Sir William Piggott Brown. When he heard that Sir William wanted to sell the business he recommended that his father buy it, which Sidney did. Over the last 40 years, Browns has grown from a small boutique into one of London’s (if not the world’s) most famous designer boutiques – often considered to be the first of its kind. The company now dominates South Molton Street with five interconnection shops, Browns Focus and Labels for Less opposite, while Browns Bride and Browns Shoes are a stone’s throw away. The company also launched the careers of many household name designers, such as John Galliano, Christopher Kane, Hussein Chalayan and Comme des Garcons.
While Mrs B has always been the face of Browns, Mr B was always behind the scenes playing an equally important role and charming customers into buying much more than they intended! He passed away peacefully on 5th April with his family by his side, just as the store launched its 40th anniversary celebrations. He will be sorely missed.