LONDON — Topman isn’t letting his sister, Topshop, steal all the limelight. He’s doing a dance all his own.
The popular British fashion label, which, like Topshop, is owned by apparel tycoon Sir Philip Green, is known for its trendy, low-priced collections for men. Topman launched its first, stand-alone 3,300-square-foot flagship in Dublin in April and there are plans in place for other locations in the U.K., as well as wholesale expansion later this year with Topman Design, the brand’s designer range. On the fashion front, the brand has been expanding into new categories, launching higher-end collections and continuing to collaborate with the British Fashion Council (BFC) to support budding design talent.
“We want to create a fashion emporium where men enjoy shopping,” said Topman design director Gordon Richardson. “We’re broadening our offer to give men what they want, and new things, too.”
Richardson, who joined the company seven years ago, is maintaining Topman’s anchor items: the carpenter jeans and T-shirts, as well as best sellers such as skinny jeans, nylon jackets and skinny ties. In addition, he is introducing more edgy, upscale collections at higher price points. For fall, Topman is unveiling The White Shirt collection, five white shirts created with guest designers including Richard Nicoll, Ute Ploier, Deryck Walker, Siv Stoldal and Carola Euler. The shirts will be priced at 50 pounds, or $101 at current exchange. They will mark the first in a series of seasonal collaboration projects. Each season, a new core product—from classic jeans to sunglasses—will be reconceived by different design talents.
“We want to keep working on redefining staple items in men’s wardrobes,” said Richardson. “We began the project with the essence of that: the white shirt.”
In addition, for the past three seasons, Topman has offered Lens, a shop-in-shop selling limited-edition, fashion-led collections by designers, including Dexter Wong, and labels, such as Neue and Licentious, alongside edgier pieces by the in-house Topman Design team. The concept was launched in collaboration with Matthew Murphy, founder of ultra-hip London boutique b Store, as creative director. Prices range from 30 pounds, or $61, for a T-shirt, to 180 pounds, or $366, for a suit. The Lens collections cost roughly 30 percent more than mainstream Topman lines.
On the upper end, the chain, which operates 237 stores around the world, also offers Unique, its own designer brand, and sells several designer collaboration collections in Boutique, another shop-in-shop.
Richardson said the introduction of new, more “luxe” categories has been a slow-build process. “We want to expand organically, not push things too fast, and keep everything in the DNA of Topman,” he said.
This September, Topman—together with the BFC—will sponsor its fifth season of MAN, a men’s catwalk show during London fashion week. It is currently the only men’s show on the schedule, and will showcase Topman Design pieces alongside work by new designers, which in the past have included Deryck Walker and Carola Euler.
“There are so many talented designers here,” said Richardson. “What’s nice is that before, if you were a design student and you were sensible, you went into women’s wear. Now you can pick either. In fact, there’s more room for talent on the men’s side. It’s a career now.”
He said, long-term, Topman would like to work with the BFC towards the creation of an entire “men’s wear day” in the London fashion week schedule. “We want to put men’s fashion on the London map,” he said.
Richardson’s design-led formula appears to be working. Topman already enjoys a cult status in the U.K., and the company is ramping up its wholesale distribution. In addition, the brand is expecting profits to grow more than 20 percent in the 2007 fiscal year. Although privately held by Arcadia, which is controlled by Green, it’s been widely reported in the U.K. that Topshop’s sales are around 600 million pounds, or $1.2 billion, and profits are 110 million pounds, or $226 million.
Topman Design is currently sold at Selfridges, Opening Ceremony in New York and L.A., Laforet in Tokyo and Shine in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Starting next month, it will be carried at Barneys New York flagships in New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco.
“The whole look of Topman is so well executed. It’s not a brand that’s filtered. It’s original, not so much produced as designed,” said Joo Woo, men’s buyer for Co-op at Barneys. “We were really keen on the dressy items, the suits, the sweater coat. It’s spot-on. Topman translates catwalk looks, but what’s great is that they have their own take on them. They bring it to another level.”
David Walker-Smith, head of buying for men’s wear at Selfridges, said: “They’ve got the market pretty much to themselves for what they offer.” Walker-Smith added that, so far sales of the line have been impressive, although he would not give specific numbers.
The big question remains: Will Topman be following Topshop’s plans for stand-alone outlets in the U.S.? Richardson declined to confirm either way, but added that it would “make sense” to follow where Topshop expanded. Generally, Topman is sold at the same locations as Topshop, the women’s label. The Dublin store was its first men’s-only unit but there are Topshop/Topman stores in all major British cities as well as in Russia, Croatia, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Iceland, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and in the United Arab Emirates.
“We just want to keep progressing as we have been. It’s very exciting because there’s so much potential,” Richardson said. “We want to create the best affordable fashion. That’s it really. There’s nothing better we could do.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
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Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast