LONDON, United Kingdom — Three women wearing a floral dress by Vetements attended the Topshop Unique show today. While this in itself was a testament to the temperature of the Parisian label, it made you look at the collection in front of you and see a reflection in the flower patterns coming down the catwalk. On the pulse, yes. But whose pulse?
The show notes talked about quintessential Britishness and somewhat confusingly asked show goers to “Remember: this is England.” There was even a collaboration with Wedgwood to prove the point, as tea-dresses were adorned with the Wild Strawberry and Jasperware designs, while the soundtrack blasted out Style Council, Moloko and Primal Scream.
Topshop Unique is meant to be a showcase for the company’s in-house design talent and a marketing platform to telegraph that the budget behemoth knows where fashion is heading at this moment. That their finger is right on the pulse was evident today, but you also got the feeling that you could see the mood board right in front of you. In short: a bit of Saint Laurent (the tailoring and the leopard), some Louis Vuitton (the faux-fur white jacket), a pinch of Gucci (the mix-and-match styling and vintage-looking florals), while a shirt with elongated sleeves evoked Vetements. But the Topshop team excel in bringing all these disparate trend indicators together in a natural way, giving them a British spin that looks right for a London girl. In a way, they managed to make these trends their own — not an easy feat.
Only a week ago the Queen Elizabeth II centre (the show venue) played host to the crowning of the new left-wing leader of Britain's Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. Today, it was the might of money that was on display as the show pulled in celebrities and every fashion editor in town. You can play the cynic about everyone turning up, but outside the show, hoards of fans spoke to the allure of Topshop's take on fashion. This collection is a legitimate part of the fashion cycle: what we witnessed was the intelligent repackaging of the present for the girls who don’t have the means or the access to luxury’s fruits. And isn’t this important validation for the wider significance of high fashion? Because if it wasn’t for the budget brands, much of it would never reach the street.