Tanya Gold Tanya Gold

‘Lifeless and necrotic’: Native at Browns is an ode to joylessness

Billy Downes and the interiors to Browns Fashion

Browns is a famous fashion boutique in deepest Mayfair. It occupies a curved cream townhouse on Brook Street, which seems sunken and shuttered. Perhaps it is the lingering effects of the pandemic or because it’s late summer, but the interior — carefully designed over multiple eyries over many floors, like gold teeth fallen on a garden — feels lifeless and necrotic. High fashion needs joyful people to wear it (or at least people pretending to be joyful, which is more usual) and here there are none.

Perhaps they are all in the south of France? Perhaps they never existed and were invented so the rest of us, regarding their perfection, would buy cheap moisturiser and cheap knickers? I don’t know anyone who would pay thousands for a dress made of recycled fashion labels to illustrate the excellence of sustainability — it is pointed out to me on the ground floor, exhibited like Ozymandias — but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Human idiocy is an infinite resource. I do not say high fashion is unsophisticated. I say it is sophisticated and horrifying.

‘On the bright side, his old-fashioned views have died with him.’

Even so, Browns — a pioneer of British fashion (it supported the doomed Alexander McQueen in his earliest years as a designer) — is expanding. Having passed from the Burstein family to a fashion website called Farfetch, which is quite realistically named for a high-fashion company, it has now opened a restaurant called Native next to the boutique.

As current interior design dictates, Native is so mute as to wish itself invisible. You go through a room filled with golden training shoes and into a tiny dining room. Here pale grey battles with pale beige through wood, wicker and stone. They both lose. The floor is mosaic, with a drawing of a pig, or maybe a dog, flat and dead.

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