Is TopShop killing fashion?

The following comment on this post at The Sartorialist got me wondering…is TopShop really killing fashion?

Suzanne Nelson said…
‘Re: eveyone who comments individual style is a rare thing in London – sadly they are right. Chain stores and ‘the high street’ – the main street in every town that nowadays has the same selection of stores pushing low budget designer rip-offs – is killing individual style in Britain. London for the most part has become one huge high street in terms of it’s choice of stores. Blame TopShop…’

A few months ago I might have said the same. Friends of mine who ran successful independent shops throughout the nineties then floundered through the early noughties when TopShop found its groove, admit the competition from the high street became all too much. Where once the high street consumer was very different to the discriminating customer who shopped at Start or Browns Focus, now the lines have blurred. The reason? The high street suddenly became very good at producing a high fashion look on a shoestring, making the independent designer seem vastly overpriced. But the blame can’t be placed squarely at the door of 216 Oxford Street. For starters, magazines like Grazia have their part to play by introducing high fashion to the masses and making us more fashion-aware than ever. Ten years ago, would the average girl in the high street know what a Chanel 2.55 was? Or a bandage dress, or a harem pant? Probably not. The media has introduced high fashion to a mainstream market and as a result, we’ve all become more knowledgable and discerning. On the flipside, the success of TopShop meant that it became cool for a high-end shopper to clock a fantastic find in TopShop and show how savvy she was. Same with Primark. But when everyone’s doing it, sadly it’s not all that clever any more. So what does a shopper do when she can’t buy designer cos the Look and Heat readers have muscled in on her precious labels? And she can’t do high street because everyone’s there as well? Oh, she shops vintage. But hang on, that’s in TopShop too, and everything new these days is based on vintage anyway, so that rules that out. Well, what about jumbling it all together – a bit of on-trend designer-derivative high street, a bit of under-the-radar designer, a natty vintage scarf, an American Apparel tee or two, some beat-up Converse from forever ago, all topped off with a classic Chanel 2.55. Surely that looks original? Um, not when the likes of Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe have trademarked the look, no.

The ‘problem’ is, fashion is all around us, all the time. When designers show their collections, they’re on the internet in a jiffy and disected in detail on blogs like this. So no wonder everyone is tapping into the same looks before they’re even in the shops – when we’re all responding to the same stimuli it’s pretty inevitable. But it’s rather rich to blame TopShop for doing their job and giving us what we seem to want, they are a business after all. Fashion is for everyone and it’s a bit sniffy to complain that it’s too easily available – no one has more right to it than others. Agreed, this all-too-ready availability does make it more of a challenge to stand out but all that’s needed is to think a little more outside the box and be even more creative when it comes to styling. After all, surely that’s the fun part of fashion?

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18 Responses to Is TopShop killing fashion?

  1. Belle says:

    completely and absolutely on the mark.

  2. K.Line says:

    Really interesting post DRG. I’ve often thought about this lately. In some ways it’s a democratic trend. I mean, in the 80s, textiles were so not as fluid and flexible as they can be now, so if you didn’t have a certain body type you were kind of screwed. I appreciate that modern textiles are so flattering on, for example, large breasted frames. So textiles have democratized fashion, kind of in the same way the high street has.

    Having said this, it diminishes the skills required to look fantastic/unique/chic, what with all the work being done for you.

  3. Tia says:

    I do agree with you & I once did see something I liked in a more expensive shop & the friend I was with told me we should head straight for Primark to look for a cheaper version. I ended up not buying the cheaper version in Primark & buying the more expensive version because that's exactly what the one in primark looked like, 'cheap' & 'tacky'. I never bothered going to Primark again.

    Tia
    fashiondiarygirl.blogspot.com

  4. Sister Wolf says:

    I agree with belle. Brilliant.

    If there is any blame to be cast, I’d say it is the widespread obsession with high-end lables and the status supposedly conferred by them. Everybody wants to look the same, i.e., RICH!

    In L.A. where I live, the uniform is even more unimaginative and awful.

    London is a mecca of originality in comparison!

    A good way to refresh your fashion palate is to look at “Fruits.” Those kids in Japan are fearless!

  5. Paris says:

    Firstly, reading through the posts on the link, London has got a right old bashing as to which i’m surprised and hurt. I think that people are bitter that we have the best high street stores in the world. I have been to my fair share of fashion capitals and not been able to purchase a thing because I can’t afford Chanel – does this mean that I should be exempt from fashion? Because I cannot afford it? So do these people think that as well as being born into money, having everything on a plate their whole lives, getting the best education, the beautiful homes, the best jobs and everything else that sets them apart from the working class street urchin such as myself, they now want an abolishment of affordable fashion so that us filth can no longer afford to look good?

    I just hope these people do not moan about chavs and lack of culture within working class society etc when they do not expect people from lower classes to have the oppertunity to dress nicely.

    I love Topshop for the fact that I can afford it (I will still shop there if and when I can afford Prada) and I back it all the way, it will never die, so satorialist commenters, get used to it!!

    ps – disney roller, I love it when you post a subject matter that gets me all hot under the collar!! xx

  6. Make Do and Mend says:

    Absolutley, well said. I love having to rejig my look to blend what I like and not look like the crowd. I do get cross when something I’ve goen for goes mass market but hey that is fashion!Sometimes the crowd and I collide but I’ve got my fave pieces and looks regardless of the fash pack. I feel confident to morph and adapt as required. I’m currently very over Topshop but that’s partly because I’m very over the flash trends – I’m channeling me at the mo!

    I agree with Paris’s comments – what’s the real issue? And please London has more diversity than anywhere else.

  7. susie_bubble says:

    I think that it is hard to strive to look original but then if you make that your ultimate goal, something is a little lost….the best I can do is just to try and shop with as much variety as possible…. yes, Topshop has raked it in and made fashion formulas easy for the masses, but I spy a wee turnaround in the future… where people are eager to think outside the box and go back to the independents….

  8. Madame says:

    Hmmmm…..first of all I think it was definitely a wrong decision for Topshop to “do vintage” – greedy and grabby, a bit “we’re on a roll, we’ll ‘ave a bit of that as well..” Wrong wrong wrong….

    I think people need to ask the question…if this top is £8, somewhere at source, someone isn’t getting paid a fair wage. Primark or Topshop are certainly making their mark-up, they’re making their profits alright. Who’s benefitting from this “democratisation” everyone keeps going on about?

    Dirt-cheap or high-end? For me it’s the middle ground between the two which is interesting (but then I would say that!), and second-hand…

  9. Top bird says:

    Oh bravo! Excellent post!

    High street aside, the fact of the matter is that the internet and subsequently the culture of instant access/ knowledge has had a major impact on every aspect of our lives, including style and fashion.

    Catwalk shows – no longer the exclusive domain of the fashion/media industries – are just a click away.

    The democratization of fashion is a much bigger picture than solely the British high street.

  10. Fruchtzwerg says:

    Great post. Fashion is not everywhere, you can’t escape of it. You see the newest trends via magazines, tabloids on celebrities, via Internet (!!!), blogs – just everywhere. And somehow this all influence us so that we want to wear almost the same but isn’t it the skill of everybody to make your outfit individual no matter if the items are exactly the same as others wear? Giving your own vibe, your own character. That’s the real talent.

  11. Sal says:

    Nice job provoking so many thoughts, DRG! You’re a smartie.

    I believe that, if style has become more homogeneous, it has done so because that is what PEOPLE WANT. As you point out, successful retailers provide goods that the public desires. You can’t blame the shops on the high street for killing fashion just because they are keeping themselves in business by selling the styles that people covet.

    To state the obvious: If folks really wanted to dress originally, they wouldn’t even visit TopShop … or they’d make certain to pair recognizably TopShop pieces with unique or unusual ones. Style isn’t what you wear, it’s how you wear it and with what. One visit to wardrobe_remix proves that assertion.

    Originality may seem harder to spot, but it’s no harder to come by than it’s ever been.

  12. pretty face says:

    Lots to think about there!

  13. pretty face says:

    Actually, it’s just that your post was so convincing I was left with nothing articulate to say but ‘lots to think about’. Now that I’ve had a few seconds, I’ve started to think:

    Should our absolute fashion aim to be to stand out from the crowd? Isn’t it more important to be able to express yourSELF through your clothes, and if the way you do that isn’t particularly outlandish, then that shouldn’t be your main aim. To me, fashion is about finding, creating and wearing beauty; sometimes what I find beautiful is pretty average (pearls, bows etc) but other stuff most people think is ugly. But I’m not purposefully tryingto find something others perceive as ugly.

    Does that make sense?!?

  14. word_fashionista says:

    I concur with everyone else – very interesting post.

    I don’t think I would feel so bitter about Topshop and Primark providing exactly what the ‘original’ consumers want if it wasn’t so obvious that they are making a killing from it while smaller designers with beautiful clothes can’t make enough money to continue their collections. Hence we are left with a topshop monopoly (a topshopopoly?) on clothes for everyone. I suppose they try to offset this by supporting new designers like Christopher Kane, Todd Lynn etc but then they just get sucked into the monopoly as well. Topshop is such a massive boon to a new designer that they can end up being sucked into the machine while anyone outside the machine can’t survive.

    We need to value the products of INconvenience that can never be provided by TS.

    http://fashioninaword.blogspot.com

  15. Lou says:

    K.line is on the ball when she says fashion has become more democratic. There is still a significant number of people that are very elitist when it comes to fashion. The thought that fashion is free for all leaves them with a problem. Fashion [especially in the past] was a way of showing your social class. The lines between high end and high street fashion are becoming blurred and thus its become more difficult for people to exert their status via their clothes.

    Im surprised Topshop has been singled out though. Yes it is a giant on the British highstreet but the likes of Primark, Asda, Next and Marks & Spencer are all much bigger clothing retailers and account for many more sales. Quite frankly, if everyone did shop at Topshop we'd probably be a far better dressed nation…:p

  16. Natty says:

    I totally agree – fantastic post!

    I really do agree with the fact that everyone has the right to fashion – those that want to look original will just have to try a little harder. I dont claim to be an original dresser, I like what I like, be it TopShop, Miu Miu or vintage. I like to think that my personality comes through in the way I wear my outfits. I can bump into someone in the street who is wearing the same dress as me but we wont look like twins, because the way we are and how we have chosen to wear the item comes into play. We may all be referring to the same stimulus now but we can still make our looks our own…

  17. Bombchell says:

    tsk tsk tsk hasn't I just keep thinking of Veblen & the emulation of the wealth class etc.

    ppl its like cool hunting. when everyone knows about it, its normal & no longer that cool.

    but to be pissed that u have now fallen & have become normal, and average and common, is sad. because it only means u were slow, and if u were keeping fast, they would never catch up, like there are still items of stealth wealth that have never been heard of by majority of the public.

    oh well perhaps I read the article & interpreted it wrongly, because it sounds like wining, and hopefully i read it wrongly.

  18. Rabz says:

    It is true that there is a huge selection of people clad out in the same old topshop attire but topshop is a store with a wide range of clothing. I'm sure most people who shop there don't notice how much else there is to offer and how you can make these your own. I shop at topshop but manage to buy things that no one else i know has. We can't blame a shop for a bunch of sheep. There's plenty of individual style in London. It's not about what you wear and where it's from it's about how you wear it and how it feels to you. If everyone dressed 'individually' then noone would be individual.

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