The chain’s flagship store was a beacon for young women – until faster fashion eclipsed its appeal

When I was growing up in Belfast in the mid-00s, the recently opened Victoria Square shopping centre offered a trifecta of coolness to teenage girls: Topshop, Urban Outfitters and Hollister. While each store had its own appeal, the barometer of desire swung most often towards Topshop. The “Topshop Girl” was ahead of trends, easily cast as the Kate or Cara of her provincial town in a statement chunky necklace or boho gilet. Whether in Belfast’s Victoria Square, the Trafford Centre in Manchester or a concession in a regional department store, Topshop was, for many young women, a beacon of aspiration.

If you lived outside a major city, a pilgrimage into town wasn’t complete without a visit to Topshop. The brand’s flagship store on London’s Oxford Street was the teenage girl equivalent of Lourdes, with three sprawling floors of clothes, shoes and accessories, a cavernous basement housing the brand’s premium Boutique range, and a curated selection of vintage clothing. Any visit was a multi-sensory experience: the labyrinth of mirrored escalators were always packed with bewildered tourists as the sound of pummelling house music from a resident DJ permeated the building.

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