Topshop’s revelation this week that it is collaborating with emerging designer Michael Halpern turned heads in the fashion world.
The designer has won plaudits from the industry for his Studio 54-style collections but recapturing Topshop’s millennial consumer is another matter.
The fast-fashion retailer has been struggling to keep up with etailers such as Asos, Boohoo and Missguided. It is no longer the millennial shopper’s first port of call and consequently suffered a loss amounting to £10.9m during the year until August 26, 2017. So is this high-fashion spin the start of a new Topshop?
The millennial consumer is inundated with fashion brands and celebrities alike on social media platforms such as Instagram. Just emulating the latest trends is not enough anymore.
The majority of retailers must now include a gimmick within their marketing strategy to stay relevant: H&M collaborates with a new celebrity each year; while Missguided made a deal with reality TV series Love Island and continues to sponsor its contestants even after the show has finished.
Topshop, meanwhile, has had sporadic celebrity collaborations in recent years. From Kate Moss in 2007-2010, with a reboot in 2014, to Beyoncé’s Ivy Park range and Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s swimwear collection in 2016.
Its flagship Oxford Circus store features interactive elements but the average Topshop store lacks the wow factor to attract the millennial buyer.
Kantar Retail principal analyst Anusha Couttigane calls the Halpern collection an “interesting move” for Topshop.
“The problem with working with celebrities is, while they have pulling power, it is always shared with all the brands they represent therefore it’s hard to stand out from the crowd,” she says. “Working with Michael Halpern sets them apart.”
Boss Sir Philip Green has always aimed to be the king of the British high street, so with his crown slipping, the move is sentimental. The collection both “embraces British emerging talent” and nostalgically “resonates with the popular 70s/80s disco”, which Couttigane believes we will see more and more of in the coming months.
Price point has also always been a problem for Topshop. The retailer misses out on many customers who prefer to spend less money with budget fast-fashion retailers such as Boohoo and Primark.
In 2007, its tie up with Moss successfully made links between the catwalk and the store. Topshop’s return to the luxury fashion world could reinstate this link and work better than the Beyoncé and Jenner tie-ups. The collaboration ultimately represents what Couttigane says is a newfound “appetite for making luxury accessible”.
The collection is also the first major announcement since Topshop’s new leadership team was appointed. Given that two of the three major appointments come from the luxury industry, the retailer’s move from celebrity to luxury is less surprising.
Getting an early start on the party season, Topshop is setting itself up for the sequin-filled golden quarter. This might just be what the millennial shopper needs to turn their head, and their purse, back to Topshop.