Droopy & Browns is indubitably one such marque and we are doubly delighted and excited to have two of their dresses, designed by the late Angela Holmes, for sale in our current catalogue. Since such pieces are all essentially limited editions, they are becoming increasingly sought after by discerning contemporary collectors.
From humble market stall beginnings in York in 1971, Droopy & Browns opened their first shop in Fossgate, moving to nearby Stonegate in 1972 and eventually opening seven more shops across the UK as Angela’s flamboyant designs and beautifully made clothes continued to hit the spot for a loyal and growing customer base. Our own first memories of Droopy & Browns are of their upmarket store in Frederick Street, Edinburgh, which we were too poor to shop in at the time but still appreciated their stunning creations and became lifelong fans.
Ahead of her time in the ethical fashion stakes, Angela deliberately avoided the predictable mainstream, rejecting the exploitative and unsustainable nature of ‘fast fashion’ which was already beginning to rear its ugly mass produced head. Instead she stayed true to her principles and lovingly produced exquisite, individually crafted pieces to her own exacting specifications. Her designs undoubtedly had, and still have, the wow factor for women, deriving inspiration from bygone eras and celebrating femininity and romance, often with a theatrical twist.
The flamboyant Christine Hamilton, in a 2010 interview with the Daily Mail, confessed to being an avid Droopy & Browns fan and enthused about her favourite Scarlett O’Hara dress:
“I got it from the fabulous Droopy & Browns shop in York, which I got to know when I was at university there. It’s a wonderful, red full-skirted taffeta, which is just heaven. I’ve had it for about 20 years and it’s completely over the top. It’s off the shoulder and Scarlett O’Hara sums it up, I think. I’ve worn it everywhere.”Sadly, Angela’s untimely death in 2000 heralded the beginning of the end for Droopy & Browns, although the company continued to trade for a few more years under the stewardship of Angela’s brother Jonathan, with a strong design portfolio inherited from Angela herself and complemented by sympathetic new designs by a long time colleague and close friend.
In this upbeat press article from 2003, Frock of ages, the future still looked rosy, with Droopy & Browns set to move into new city centre premises in York. Jonathan also offered an interesting insight into the history of the brand, including how it came to have such an unusual name:
“When it came to picking the name, I went through a list of the usual type of boutique names and Angela just curled her lip. She said: ‘I want it to be Edwardian: all droopy and brown… that’s what we’ll call it – Droopy & Browns’.”Alas, Droopy & Browns was ultimately brought down by Lloyd’s Bank when it recalled its loans, prematurely according to a company insider who insisted they were still trading profitably, and leaving its many loyal customers bereft.
You can read a more in-depth account of Angela Holmes’s lasting legacy in Nicola Gooch's Guardian obituary, A talented performer devoted to building a business of beauty, style and quality in fashion.
Meanwhile here are the two Droopy & Browns dresses we currently have in stock which have all the Angela Holmes hallmarks of quality and style.
And here are two more examples of Droopy & Browns dresses from our Sold Gallery, the first modelled beautifully by our own Kirstin Frocker.