I was never quite cool enough for Topshop but I did browse. The jeans always seemed impossibly tiny.
In my 20s, I imagined a Kate Moss version of myself sliding into a pair of skinnies without sucking in, an alter ego that didn’t drink beer and down cheesy chips after midnight.
Post two lockdowns, my waistband may have nudged further from my Joni jeans dreams and so it seems, has Topshop. The High Street, as we knew it, is in disarray.
The Arcadia behemoth is crumbling. Thirteen thousand jobs on the line. Sir Philip Green’s lack of innovation in the face of digital competition to blame. And his unsavoury reputation. Sexual harassment allegations and the BHS pensions debacle marred the brand aimed at Generation Z, the most woke of us all.
Still, morals tend to slip in the face of a bargain. I’ve just bought a cardigan in the online sale, as spotted on TV presenter Muireann O’Connell on Insta.
All in the name of research. Free delivery too. The site is looking hopeful. There’s still a chance of redemption for the brand set up in 1964, in the basement of a store in Sheffield. Topshop has heritage. Sir Philip Green only appears on its timeline in 2002 when he bought Acadia, including Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Burton, for £850 million.
Four years later he lost Topshop’s driving force, visionary Jane Shepherdson CBE who had helped create a style destination beloved of fashion editors and teenagers alike, making Topshop the first high street label to show at London Fashion Week. Shepherdson does not spare her former boss in her evaluation of the situation. “Well, Phillip Green is not a great retailer, is he?” she told London’s Evening Standard.
“The biggest difference in Phillip and my philosophy was that I always think to make a brand successful and in demand you had to give your customers more than they were expecting to get and you had to constantly excite them. In my opinion, his philosophy was ‘let’s just see how cheaply we can make it and how much we can sell it for.’” Ouchie. Clearly no love lost there.
After Shepherdson came Moss. Every one of the supermodel’s 14 collections from 2007 to 2014 sold out within hours creating a shopping frenzy, especially at the brand’s flagship store on 214 Oxford Street. KPMG claims 400,000 customers entered the doors of the 100,000 square foot store a week, up until Covid-19 restrictions. Even Beyoncé couldn’t save the brand’s fortunes.
Two years after launching her Ivy Park collection to much fanfare, Queen Bey bought back her shares from Green. Too much scandal. Not good for business. So what now for Topshop? Business analysts predict Boohoo might jump in and make something of the brand digitally. It’s got money to spare afterall. The pandemic may have brought a wrecking ball to the high street but it looks like retail’s digital giants will be picking up the best bits and re-working them online. Topshop may rise again.
The sale continues online www.topshop.com