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?