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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

London Fashion Week A/W 2010 Catwalk Review: Topman

A review of the Topman show at the BFC tent on Tuesday 24th February. Featuring a front row of menswear luminaries Andrew Davis, Steve Beale, Daryoush Haj-Najafi, Hywel Davies and Way Perry. But was it any good?

Written by Amelia Gregory

Topman, ed story hottest ticket in town!

Topman front row by Pearl Law.
Topman front row by Pearl Law.

You don’t believe me? Why, find dosage then you don’t understand the nature of fashion. Here was the only show where the menswear fashion mafia were out in force. The magnitude of control that the Topshop empire now wields over British fashion cannot be underestimated: between Philip Green, dosage Kate Moss and a huge amount of sponsorship Topshop practically IS British Fashion. Still don’t believe me? Then check out the rollcall of new designers that Topshop sponsored as part of New Gen this year, proudly announced in the foyer of the BFC tents like a litany of high achieving academics proudly etched into the wood panels of a university. They represent the very best of the new young designers working in Britain now, but the sad fact is that they will almost certainly be ripped off by the very monster that raised them. How else does Topshop make it’s obscene profits? And don’t even get me started on their ethical practices.

The menswear editors certainly aren’t here because they’re looking forward to the best collection of the entire week. They’re here to keep happy one of their biggest advertisers / the company that pays their consultancy fees. And Mr. Fatcat Philip Green himself can be found shortly before the show holding court in the press room, magnanimously chortling with some pretty young fashionista before taking his position in the front row, smiling contentedly, the lord of his dominion.

I know many of the menswear crew because of my past career as a stylist (for many years merely a fashion cupboard ‘monkey’ and thereafter as a stylist’s assistant) within this niche industry. I loved working as a menswear stylist – it wasn’t so fraught with the pinickety bitching and temper tantrums of womenswear, and the male models were a lot more fun. Even though there is now a dedicated menswear day at London Fashion Week it remains a very small part of the industry by comparison and many of the people I learnt my ‘craft’ alongside have now become highly influential, unsure how to treat me… the one who went off on an entirely independent tangent and has since become a mere speck on the edge of the menswear world.

Topman. Photography by Amelia Gregory

The menswear crew of old sit in the front row opposite me, perfectly lined up like a row of duckies at the fair. First there’s Andrew Davis, sporting his best miserable face. We both started out in the Arena fashion cupboard as minions at the bottom of the heap, but Andrew learnt the art of sycophancy much better than I ever did and quickly rose to the position of Fashion Director for both Arena and Arena Homme Plus magazines. He now consults and styles for many large fashion brands across the world. He’s always looked young, a small ginger lad in a baseball cap, but he was old (29) even when he started out in this business, which just shows where blinding ambition will get you if you’re focused enough. Never let age be a barrier in fashion, especially if you look and act young.

Next to him Steve Beale – who is always chatty to me bless his soul – is now embedded in the bowels of uber lads’ mag FHM, where his career seems to be defined by a relentless quest for self-improvement. It was not always thus; he began life as founding editor of the cult underground magazine Sleaze Nation in the mid 90s… before the lure of cash from a proper job beckoned.

Daryoush Haj-Najafi was working as a barman in the then fantastically trendy Bricklayers Arms in the centre of Shoreditch when Shazzy Thomas, my then boss at The Face (I’d moved fashion cupboards in the Wagadon stable by then) decided he was cute and got him in as an intern in the late 90s. Thus his career began and he now writes extremely funny blogs about fashion for Vice Magazine. Hywel Davies offered me great encouragement at the start of my career – especially when I moved into photography – and used to hire me as a stylist, photographer and writer many years ago, again for Sleaze Nation. He is now a senior lecturer in fashion and has written the fashion tomes Modern Menswear and British Fashion Designers in recent years. Last in our round-up is Way Perry, a well-known stylist and menswear editor of Wonderland Magazine.

They will no doubt be among those who write glowing things about Topman: for them it’s the only way. But I have no such allegiances. Despite knowing many senior people in the Topman marketing and press team, they are one (of many) large advertisers who resolutely failed to support Amelia’s Magazine: in fact you could blame them for the downfall of the print version because if they’d jumped on board I may well have had many other advertisers, such is their power. And they continue to show no interest in what I do, so I can say about the collection what I like. And I will.

Named Berlin Boys this collection was dreariness personified – a feeling echoed in the faces of those opposite me. Styled by the perfectly respectable Alistair Mackie, all sense of excitement had been bled from the collection, just like the spidery tie-dyed silhouette trees bleeding across an apocalyptic reddened sky. On our seats had been placed a glossy little notebook that matched the invite we’d been sent, and this was quite frankly the most exciting bit of design I could see in the vicinity. I just don’t get it. Why not use a catwalk show as an excuse to create something more inspiring? Why does it have to be this way? Even from the second row I could see how cheaply made the clothes are, and how on earth did they find/force so many boys to adopt peroxide blonde hair for the show? Were they paid handsomely for the ordeal? I’ve seen the look so many times before.

Topman by Antonia Parker.
Topman. Illustration by Antonia Parker.

Topman. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Topman. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Topman. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Topman by Antonia Parker.
Topman. Illustration by Antonia Parker.

Topman. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Topman. Photography by Amelia Gregory
Topman by Antonia Parker.
Topman. Illustration by Antonia Parker.

But none of it matters, because Topshop and Topman will continue to ‘support’ young designers as they start out on their tricky career in the notoriously fickle world of fashion, and people will continue to buy Topshop’s clothes, both good and bad. It matters not a jot what they choose to send down the catwalk. Mores the pity, for the megalith organisation that is Topshop could effect so much more good in this industry if it chose to. And I’m not just referring to design. Don’t even get me started on their ethical practices…

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4 Responses to “London Fashion Week A/W 2010 Catwalk Review: Topman”

  1. Abi says:

    Have just noticed that the model halfway down the page looks like Gareth from ‘The Office’ – who’d have thought fashion would go in that direction?

    Great review – the clothes are dull beyond belief and it’s a sad thing to think of the immense hold this brand has.

  2. Amelia says:

    Hey Abi, couldn’t agree more, and the sad thing is that most people dare not say anything bad about Topshop, such is their strangle hold!

  3. Joy says:

    Brilliant!

  4. simon wade says:

    err that smacked out speedfreek look seeems to back again and it looks shite

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