Since moving to the ‘village’ of Chiltern Street in 2011, Pauline Burrows’ handcrafted menswear has found friends in high places – customers with an appreciation of subtle styling and hidden detail.
Menswear was pretty boring back then,” says fashion designer Pauline Burrows of the London scene she discovered after moving down from Northumbria in the Nineties. “I realised there was nothing interesting going on, especially when it came to shirts.” Planning to put that right, Burrows started selling her wares wholesale before falling in love with the retail side and the direct contact it gave her with her customers.
Touring London’s stores, her early womenswear designs saw her land capsule collections on Liberty’s shelves and sell to Browns and Matches Fashion before she expanded into menswear and launched her eponymous label in 1997. “It started very organically as a shirt collection and has developed into jackets, raincoats and suits,” she says. “I always wanted to add my own little twist to make things more interesting than what was out there at the time.”
Fast forward to today and Burrows counts the likes of David Bowie and
Tom Cruise among her clients. On the rails of her small but perfectly formed boutique on Chiltern Street in Marylebone, her core collection of shirts and jackets is defined by soft colours and subtle detailing with tiny design touches that make each piece truly unique.
“The details are hidden but relevant,” she says. “The owner knows they’re wearing something really lovely. You don’t need to wear the label outside; everyone knows a Pauline Burrows shirt because of its quality.”
Her passion for her trade is clear; she’s always on the lookout for new fabrics to complement her creations, scouting trade fairs and, when we speak, waxing lyrical about the Italian two-tone linen shirts displayed in store. Employing two other people, her handmade output is decidedly low volume – she produces about ten to 12 pieces a week – while the current waiting list for made-to-order pieces has seen her employ extra pairs of hands to get orders out in good time. Trade is booming right now.
You don’t need to wear the label outside; everyone knows a Pauline Burrows shirt because of its quality
Burrows has seen trends come and go and her own tailoring style has evolved over the years, too. “When I started, things were very loose – my collections were quite laid back and even included a pair of drawstring trousers – even now some customers ask if I’m going to bring those back!” she says with a laugh. “My collections have became a little more tailored but I’m planning to introduce some pieces that go a little more back to those roots.”
For a decade, her shop was based in Covent Garden’s Seven Dials but Burrows chose to relocate to Marylebone in 2011; a move she doesn’t regret. “Seven Dials was great in the beginning but there are lots of tourists and big brands now and it’s definitely lost some of its independence,” she says. “Chiltern Street has much more of a village feel and most of my customers have become my friends. It’s possible to build a really good relationship with them.”
She’s in good company, too, with Chiltern Street boasting a growing number of high-end boutiques that have given the area the feel of a true fashion retail destination. And one in which Burrows’ unique collection of high-quality, handcrafted menswear feels right at home. ML
Pauline Burrows, 50 Chiltern Street, London W1. paulineburrows.com