Since when did store openings start looking like Hollywood premieres? Yesterday Topshop, the British retail mega-giant, celebrated the inauguration of their US flagship with a flurry of confetti, paparazzi, and a line of people stretching over a block long, all waiting to get a glimpse of downtown Broadway’s newest addition. Previously, Americans seeking Topshop’s chic and affordable clothing had to wait for a trip to Europe, or order through their highly successful website. As a result of the covetability of Topshops wares, in addition to this difficulty in obtaining them, a certain mystery around the brand was created which more ubiquitous companies such as H&M lacked. All of these factors helped generated the kind of buzz and anticipation around the opening yesterday which can only be described as a Mardi Gras-like spectacle. Comely young assistants decked out in bowler hats, mop tops, and union jack shirts helped distribute gift bags and certificates to those waiting for the store to open, while employees from nearby Madewell gave out coffee and donuts to the loyal masses, some of whom arrived as early as 8 AM. Thought it was nearly impossible to approach the makeshift stage near the entrance without being swarmed by security, rumors buzzed that Kate Moss was there on hand to celebrate the stores opening. All of these things seemed more reminiscent of an outdoor music festival than a heavily marketed consumer event.
Once inside, shoppers were greeted by a wide assortment of both women’s and men’s spring fashions, as well as collaborations with Jonathan Saunders and Preen. In addition, there were also stylists from Brooklyn’s chic Woodley and Bunny Salon on hand to help create several new looks gratis, in addition to a mini nail salon, a Sephora sponsored makeover area, and a “person stylist” to help customers mix and match their new Topshop duds. Providing the soundtrack was indie-electro band The Rapture doing a high energy DJ set. As part of opening week, Topshop is also sponsoring 3 nights of “Top DJs” including sets by LCD Soundsystem and Kid Sister (among others).
While there were certainly die hard Topshoppers in attendance, many came simply for what promised to be an interesting event and perhaps a chance to meet Miss Moss herself. Others I interviewed told me they were willing to brave the one to three hour wait online because they had recently been laid off, and were looking for a creative and uplifting way to spend the day. It seemed odd to me that those without a job would find inspiration at a shopping event, but perhaps the relative low cost of the clothing in addition to the cheerful atmosphere provided some kind of normalcy and a reminder that better times lay ahead. While now is perhaps the worst time to be opening up a new retail franchise, the general frenzy surrounding this opening and the barely contained excitement of it’s shoppers should be some indication that for Topshop weathering the voyage across the ocean should be a breeze.