Topshop’s Unique is one of the most influential shows of London Fashion Week: an accessible media frenzy that pulls in a stellar front row and attracts massive attention from the public — with an 83 per cent increase in streaming figures since last season. While total annual sales for the store’s parent company Arcadia were flat, online sales were up 24 per cent year on year.
The show works as a starting point for the high street retailer’s forthcoming trends. So, what’s the story this season? “It’s not about one thing or one idea,” said Topshop Unique’s creative director Kate Phelan backstage after the show. “Fashion should be whatever you want it to be. It should be free. It should be us wearing what we want to wear.”
Cue a collection that was mismatched and random, with each look offering a different idea, and no clear narrative string to thread it all together. There were racy dresses in shocking pink and navy lace, and long johns worn with elongated sleeved leopard print shirts and grey knits. There were sumptuous tailored, double-breasted blazers with delicate gemstone embroidery, slinky evening dresses in velvet and sheer organza, and floor-skimming wide-legged woollen trousers. Leather slip dresses were styled with great military overcoats inspired by army and navy surplus stores, or oversized shearling jackets. Sleeveless faux fur coats were slung through one arm and hung loose at the back. There were sock boots — and shoes worn with socks.
Models’ hair was sent down the runway however it came — some long and flowing, others backcombed Afros or buzz cuts. Topshop Beauty provided the make-up — a choice of nude or shocking pink lips, and a kohl-lined eye.
This was a collection that had no rules. Instead, it celebrated individuality, with clothes designed to be worn however one wishes — the very essence of what Topshop is built on. If the Topshop Unique show is a gauge with which to measure next season, then AW16 promises something of a pick’n’mix. A runway collection that opts not to dictate. How very refreshing.
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