Browns Buying Director Laura Larbalestier spent eight years at Selfridges prior to making the move to the historic multi-brand boutique. Browns was set up in 1970 by Joan and Sidney Burtsein.
How did you start your career as a buyer?
I knew I wanted to work in fashion from the age of nine, I designed a collection and had a fashion show at my school. When I was sixteen I had a part time job at Marshall Fields and I was always fascinated every time we got new deliveries and why the buyers had bought it. I moved to London to do fashion management at the London College of Fashion. When I graduated I got a job as a buying administrator at Selfridges, in the childrens department.
You take risks on new brands, what do you look for in a brand that convinces you of its potential?
It’s sounds a little fluffy but there is quiet a lot of working on instinct. As buyers we see so many collections so the other part of our job is really about comparison, and of course the trends of the season and what brands and looks will be most important in it.
What gives Browns the competitive edge in The online market?
Well, Browns was actually the first store to ever sell clothing online. So I think today it’s about our mix of street brands in Browns Focus and expensive things from mainline designers. Also because our offer is still relatively small I want the mix of things to feel quite personal.
Browns on South Molton Street have had many brand firsts in the UK: Calvin Klein, Jil Sander, and Giorgio Armani. What does the future hold for Browns stores and online?
We will continue to try to be first in introducing brands to the UK, but it should also be the store for the best edit of all the worlds’ biggest brands. For the last few years’ retail has become so driven by department store and mono brand stores, I think the independent store with an original point of view will become more and more appealing to consumers.
What do you enjoy most about being a buyer?
Seeing the collections in the showrooms and deciding what to buy. Honestly, I’m most happy when I see it all selling!
If you weren’t on this path, what other career would you have?
A history teacher, it was always my favorite subject at school and its very interesting how parts of the past repeats itself!