Topshop: the end of an inspiration for young women

The closure of Topshop in December was the final nail in the coffin for the once infamous retailer. It had been held under the umbrella company of Arcadia that also owned Miss Selfridge, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, which were all closed when competitive retailer ASOS bought the franchise.  

High street shops have to be extremely versatile in 2021’s environment; the fashion industry has become an online shopping experience, beginning with paid advertisements to influencers on Instagram that get buyers to either search for looks directly online, or buy similar styles that they find in- store. Topshop was once a fashion inspiration to many, but its closure was prematurely expected – how has this affected the identities of young women who were raised on seeing Alexa Chung in Joni Jeans blearily gazing through the glass windows of their favourite fast fashion brand every weekend? 

With a loss of 2500 jobs, borne mainly by the retail workers who represented the young women and men who shopped there, a delve into Topshop’s history may explain how its youngest generation has outgrown its influence. Originating in Sheffield in 1964, Topshop grew to have 510 shops worldwide, with 300 in the UK alone. It showcased fashion by young British designers that were on trend, aiming to express “a young and different generation.” This soon spiralled upwards as the industry got wind of its popularity and Topshop grew to celebrate more prominent designers by creating capsule collections that highlighted seasonal catwalk pieces at an accessible price.  

Unfortunately, their success has been short-lived. In 2018, when allegations were made against Philip Green, Arcadia’s wealthy, white owner, of sexual harassment and racism, Beyoncé cut ties with Topshop, with whom she had collaborated for her Ivy Park sportswear range.  Although the designs were “on trend” per se, they were lacklustre in individuality – almost every young woman in England at some point wore a sequinned Topshop playsuit to one New Year’s Eve party or another. I myself remember going into Topshop and seeing bland, subdued colours modelled by painfully thin women. While that shows how popular they were at a point in time, as the beauty industry calls for a more accurate representation of beauty standards in high street shops, Topshop did not shift their marketing anywhere near fast enough to stay relevant.  

The point is that as feminism and other anti-discrimination movements find increased relevance in a younger generation whose parents were raised less conservatively; as a result, the rigidity of self-expression is disappearing. As we become more confidently individual, fewer people strive towards conformity or looking “basic”, which is why websites such as ASOS are thriving with variety, vintage wear and cheap prices to accommodate for all sizes, shapes and, ultimately, personalities.  

A final aspect of this cultural shift is the nature of shopping experience, which is an important part of having a place on the high street. When things reopen in April, will a bland interior, harsh lighting and small changing rooms, really be missed by curious young women? Alternative brands such as Urban Outfitters have unique designs that make the shops feel subtly comfortable, with large changing rooms, encouraging you to spend time trying on their clothes and to enjoy the process.  Pull & Bear even offers phone-charging facilities! Topshop’s closure represents a long-overdue evolution in our fashion habits and attitudes. To be blunt, we are SO over it.  

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