LONDON, United Kingdom — Topshop Topman is one of the largest global retail players, operating over 450 stores. The British retailer launched as Topshop in the 1960s, before adding menswear brand Topman in 1978. Both brands came to prominence in their home market in the 1990s by tapping into increasingly fashion-conscious consumers with collections that reflected the contemporary cultural zeitgeist.
Alongside its trend-led mainlines, the retailer shows its in-house designed Topshop Unique and Topman Design collections on schedule at London Fashion Week and London Collections: Men respectively. In addition, Topshop Topman has positioned itself as a prominent and innovative champion of emerging design talent, through its funding of the NewGen and NewGen Men schemes, which have sponsored the catwalk collections of NewGen graduates including Christopher Kane, Peter Pilotto, J.W. Anderson and Astrid Andersen. Topshop Topman has also collaborated with Kate Moss, Mary Katrantzou, Sibling, Agi & Sam and Adidas Originals to name a few.
Topshop Fashion Director Maddy Evans explains how the company, owned by Sir Philip Green, has put creativity and innovation at the core of its culture.
BoF: What makes Topshop different?
ME: As a brand Topshop feels set apart from other retailers in that we service a core trend customer whilst maintaining a luxury positioning with our Unique collection, as well as servicing a contemporary customer with Boutique. In addition we have a premium make-up brand which was a first amongst our contemporaries.
Topshop Unique has shown on-schedule at London Fashion Week for ten years and we have a long-standing relationship with the British Fashion Council through the sponsorship of the NewGen programme — a scheme that champions emerging talent — a philosophy that permeates all parts of the business.
Our long-standing British heritage and irreverent approach gives us gravitas in the industry and the consumer that has grown up with Topshop has certainly seen our brand evolve over the years and continue to evolve today. At the very core, we have always been a leading-edge brand with an authoritative fashion stamp.
BoF: How has going global impacted the company’s DNA?
ME: We have tried to remain true to our DNA as much as we possibly can because we want the awareness levels and the understanding of the brand to still be very much about the same things: a cutting edge brand that is first to market. Whether that is from an innovation point of view, or whether that is from giving the customer what they want before anybody else. Through our franchise agreements and other partners we have gone into new territories like Canada and Australia; we will have nine own stores in the States by the end of this year, and we have just opened our first European own store in Amsterdam. Obviously, there are many different variables in terms of those customer profiles but our message is always fashion first; it is our core.
BoF: How has Topshop embedded innovation into the company’s DNA?
ME: Innovation is embedded at every level, and in every team. We encourage our teams to specifically set aside time for creative forums and blue sky thinking, and also support that process by bringing in experts and thought-leaders to challenge thinking, inspire and encourage innovation; we’re not a business which wants to stand still. In the rapid pace that we work and move, and with the high expectations we have — being better, faster and more creative than the next — we know it’s vital to carve out that time for creative thinking if we want to stay ahead.
We encourage autonomy and decision-making at every level of our teams — from our newest grads to our most established managers — all have a critical role to play in us delivering on our brand vision. That perfect idea can come from anywhere, so we ask our teams to bring in everything that they see out there in the world — to play, challenge and influence our direction — they definitely need to be ideas people. Innovation should be part of their DNA; those are the type of people we are looking for, and that we want to retain.
BoF: What kind of team environment do you try and foster?
ME: We’re a growing, global brand — our product teams are almost run like individual businesses because of the scale of them and the money they make. Each product team of up to 15 or 20 people combines their individual expertise to strategise, sail that ship and decide where it is going to be in two years, five years time — it’s an incredible level of influence.
On a day-to-day basis it is very much that one team, developing, evolving, trading — owning those commercial decisions, and having fun with it. It makes them such strong teams who feel accountable to each other, and to the business in a very real way.
BoF: What are the key traits Topshop is looking for in candidates?
ME: We have massive ambitions in terms of growing and standing out against the competition and are looking for multichannel thinkers with global, commercial and ethical mindsets. These guys have to live, breathe and consume fashion and culture. As well as that they have to be balanced with a very commercial skill set, understanding the customer globally, and really wanting to satisfy them and excite them at every level. With the numbers that we commit to the stakes are high, so they definitely have to be full of confidence and have a natural flair, a keen instinct and be bold enough to make those big decisions because they have the influence and autonomy to do that.
This post is sponsored by Topshop Topman. To explore career opportunities at this company, please visit the Topshop Topman company page on BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent.