When I first started out in this career in 1996 Topshop wasn't the fashion hero it is today. Designers moaned about how high street stores like Topshop copied their ideas without paying for them. And they were right to moan. High street stores did copy, often brazenly. For designers, the high street was the Big Bad Wolf come to gobble them up.
Back in 1998 two visionary women working at Topshop decided to see if they could reverse the dynamic. Jane Shepherdson, then Brand Director of the store (now CEO of Whistles) and Sarah Mower MBE, esteemed American Vogue fashion critic and nowAmbassador for Emerging Talent for the BFC was then Fashion Director of Arcadia Group. They had the bright idea to invite designers to collaborate with the store, giving them the opportunity to reach new consumers and make money to help grow their businesses. Topshop also part sponsored their catwalk shows.
"Young designers had zero tolerance of the high street and it was my mission to make sure that [if they collaborated with Topshop] they wouldn't be raped [by the experience]. Over my dead body," Sarah Mower, told me this morning. "Among the first designers we worked with were Hussein Chalayan and Clements Ribeiro. We had a dream that London would become the world number one centre for emerging talent. Today when I look at the number of people that have come though NewGen, like Christopher Kane, Erdem and Jonathan Saunders, I feel we have achieved that."
Spookily enough, while researching further into this story I came across a piece I wrote in 1998 in the Independent about the advent of Topshop's work with young designers. (I worked at the Indy as fashion writer from 1996-1999.)
In 2002, seeing further mileage (and now doubt enjoying its rehabilitated image as the saviour of young designers, rather than the usurper) Topshop began its headline sponsorship of the NEWGEN program. Today it not only sponsors NewGen, but also Fashion East and it has created the Topshop Show Space at London Fashion Week, which offers a free venue and production for the hottest young British designers. This brings us neatly to the photos you see here, the store's way of celebrating their 10 years of supporting NewGen.
On February 17th on the first day of London Fashion Week, Topshop owner Philip Green is scheduled to do a presentation that will outline his plans for his next ten years of fashion industry support. Also on the 17th these T-shirts launch in-store and online at topshop.com. In the meantime enjoy 10 of the 20 £30 T-shirts shot by Scott Trindle on a selection of new models (all profits go to homeless charity Centrepoint) and decide which one/s you want to get your hands on. I love the Erdem, Chris Kane and Mary Katrantzou tees... What about you? You can catch the other 10 T's in this weekend's edition of The Times.
|Ashleigh wearing Erdem|
|Mia wears Marios Schwab|
|Grace wears Christopher Kane|
|Georgina wears Jonathan Saunders|
|Sara wears Peter Jensen|
|Olga wears Meadham Kirchhoff|
|Agnes wears Holly Fulton|
|Natasha wears Mary Katrantzou|
|Jaz wears Roksanda Ilincic|