What words do you think of when you say Topshop? Influencer. Affordable fast fashion. Cool. Unstoppable. Kate Moss. Well, maybe a few years ago those words would have fitted perfectly but its crown has slipped a little of late.
The brand’s influencer status (while still big) isn’t quite what it was. And the affordable tag isn’t always suitable as Topshop sells more than a few pieces with prices in the high hundreds. Cool, yes, but it’s no longer out there on its own on that front. Unstoppable – hmmm, maybe not so much given that its Australian and New Zealand businesses came crashing down recently. And Kate Moss? Well she’s now the face of Reserved, its new flagship annoyingly close to Topshop’s own at Oxford Circus.
It all adds up to a brand that is still one of the best known and most popular in fashion but which certainly has its challenges.
Which brings us to the Topshop Unique show in London at the weekend. Kate Moss was there (but then she’s never really cut the Topshop cord despite working for rivals) and the paparazzi were there too as a result.
But even if the paparazzi didn’t hang around for the show itself, they should have done because it was definitely worth watching. I wasn’t mad on the last collection, nor the one before, but Kate Phelan bowed out on a high ahead of the arrival of new creative chief David Hagglund with a concept that did what Topshop is supposed to do. That is, offer up cool clothes for young women to party in or to feel like they’re not just one of the crowd when it comes to day dressing.
These pieces were young and sexy but (thankfully) they were also a world away from the too-obviously-sexy look some current UK-based young women’s brands promote these days (all that porn star pouting on Instagram leaves me cold).
The company itself said it was the spirit of Soho awakening, the grit and the gleam of London’s heady nightlife. “Think Madame Jojo’s, the Revuebar – the quintessential, creative underground that caught the imagination of photographer Corinne Day. The days before Instagram, the fun behind closed doors and neon lights. You had to be there,” it said.
The company gave us “teeny-tiny satin bandeau dresses, boudoir influences and tissue thin transparent blouses… Showgirl flourishes [that] meet the modern party girl with capes and embellishments. Atomic silver trousers worn Iggy-skinny and shrunken mohair vests.” And brushed red metallic leather minis, “a fast-track to cool under the lights of Soho.”
There were some great cocoon coats too, big on volume as are many coats for the new season. And we also got marabou feather trims on sheers – a burlesque edge that should prove popular come party season.
Also interesting was what it was all accessorised with snake-hipped diamanté buckle-belts, costume jewellery pearls with an heirloom sensibility and “kicky kitten-heel mules”.
And it was all topped off with a series of T-shirts that were personalised with the models’ names and that real live customers at the oxford Circus flagship will be customising themselves now.
Will it put Topshop back in its place as the top fashion shop? Probably not, as there’s a lot more competition out there now. But it certainly proves that we can’t write off Topshop’s ability to tap into the way young women want to dress now.