Topshop is a brand in transition but you wouldn’t know it by its catwalk show which consisted of clothes for the customer Topshop has courted for decades – a young woman looking for something to wear on a Friday night.
There were sequins, feathers, metallic leather blazers, satin trousers, faux fur coats and party dresses by the bucketload.
Owner Sir Philip Green sat front row with Kate Moss, Vogue’s new editor Edward Enninful and Moss’s daughter Lila Grace. The message? Topshop may be changing but its keen to retain its place as the high street brand with a seat at fashion’s top table.
Sunday’s collection at the London fashion show was the last by Kate Phelan and her team. It was announced in August that Phelan, the creative director since 2011, would be leaving the brand with David Hagglund, an ex-H&M designer, taking her place from this month.
But her collection was worn with panache by supermodels including Adwoa Aboah, Jourdan Dunn and Joan Smalls. The finale had the models in jeans with T-shirts with their names printed on.
The show notes referenced a pre-Instagram age in the 1990s: “The fun behind closed doors and neon lights. You had to be there.”
However, the changes at the brand are an attempt to lure in a customer who can’t remember a time without social media: a young woman whose wardrobe prioritises the post over the party. These women are buying cheaper clothes designed for selfies at newer brands such as Missguided and Boohoo. The price points at Topshop are coming down to compete in this market.
This runway collection – which has in the past had pieces priced up to £700 – now starts at £39. Around half of the collection was available to buy after the show with most prices under £200. For a high street retailer that runs on immediacy, the so-called See Now Buy Now model from last year – since ditched by Tom Ford and other designers – makes sense.
Sunday also saw Donatella Versace in town, to present her Versus collection. In a display of the house’s signature “molto sexy” look, models wore bikini tops with trouser suits, string vests and cocktail dresses. Tailoring had bright stitched panels like on a Nudie suit.
The 90s heritage of the brand, catnip for millennials, was present and correct. The lime green shift dress with Versus on the belt looked zesty and the plaid bucket hats appeared worthy of a rave. There were also cropped tops for both sexes – with male midriff a proposition for next summer.
The show took place in Central Saint Martins, the design college famous for alums including Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane and Roksanda Ilinčić.
Versace announced the Gianni Versace scholarship to begin this year at the college, sponsoring a student to attend its renowned MA fashion course. It comes 20 years after the designer’s death. In a statement, Donatella said Gianni was “a visionary designer and in his memory we wanted to nurture the creators of tomorrow”.
At a preview of the collection on Friday, Donatella – wearing a pleated skirt with lime green panels from the collection – said it was for young people, and the designs were intended to be worn “in a fun and free way”. In a soundbite worthy of social media, she added: “If you believe in yourself, you’ll do something in life.”
A member of the Versus design team explained more on the process of the collection. He said it was inspired by the heritage of the brand. The stitching came, he said, from an instruction from Donatella after a preview of the work in progress: take it all apart and put it back together again. Having now been at the helm of the Versace ship for 20 years, it is a process the designer is familiar with.