By  on April 2, 2007

Topshop is going global with Kate Moss.

The British retailer plans to roll out its Kate Moss for Topshop collection to all 19 Barneys New York stores in the U.S. beginning May 8 in the brand's major push into the U.S. market. And the line will be launched in other retailers worldwide, ranging from Colette in Paris and 10 Corso Como in Milan to stores in Moscow.

"The Kate Moss collection will be introduced in the U.K. on May 1 and we will then go to 20 other countries with it," said Sir Philip Green, Topshop's owner. "This is a major initiative for us, and we want to push the boat along in a big way."

Green and Moss will come to New York for the launch at Barneys, which, as reported in WWD, is throwing a cocktail party for the model on May 8. She and Green also will attend the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"We agreed to this 12 days ago," Green said. "Barneys then asked us when we would deliver the collection, and we said in a month. I think it surprised them, but we do things quickly."

The Barneys deal is another step in Green's drive to build the Topshop brand in America in advance of the retailer opening its own store here. Green said he continues to search for a site for a U.S. flagship, although nothing has been finalized.

"This is a great tie-up in terms of Kate Moss and Topshop to present the brand in a meaningful way in the U.S.," said Green.

Topshop is on an aggressive expansion drive, in both the U.K. and overseas. Green said the retailer currently has 97 stores across 30 countries and recently opened a 20,000-square-foot store in Stockholm, its largest unit outside Britain. Next up is a 15,000-square-foot store in Moscow, near Red Square, with a local partner. In the U.K., the retailer plans to add 400,000 square feet over the next 12 to 15 months, half of which will be major flagships.

"Some of them will be new stores and some will be replacement stores for units that were 7,000 to 8,000 square feet but now will be 40,000 to 50,000 square feet," Green said. "They will be mirrors of what we are doing on Oxford Street," where Topshop has its flagship.As for Barneys snagging the Kate Moss line in the U.S., "we saw it, we wanted to do it from the start and felt very strongly about it," said Julie Gilhart, the retailer's senior vice president and fashion director.

Barneys has carried some Topshop products in the past, as well as some of the collection of Green's British men's wear chain Top Man. In August, Barneys offered Topshop's Baxter jeans because it was such a "great skinny jean," Gilhart said. "We have a customer that also shops at Topshop when they're in London. They had this jean, so we thought, 'Let's bring in that style in a few washes.' That's how we established a relationship."

Barneys' executives felt the Kate Moss for Topshop line was a natural fit for the specialty store, even if it addresses a much lower tier than its otherwise top designer assortment.

"We thought it was another interesting thing for us to do," Gilhart said. "Kate has never let us down in terms of style and she is a great stylist. Kate's style is very much Barneys' style. We completely relate to the design direction that she has given. It is like going into her closet, with items that work on their own or together. And you can see Kate wearing every piece."

At price points from $20 for a tank top to $200 for dresses, the Kate Moss collection is priced below Co-op price points, where dresses are often more than $200 and could cost as much as $700. Barneys has no intention to generally widen its range with lower prices at Co-op. "Sometimes you make an exception for something unique," Gilhart said. "This is the first time Kate has done anything, and we feel she is a part of our store. She was working with Corrine Day when Corrine shot our campaign in the early Nineties.

"Some things feel vintage-y and feminine, and others are edgier and cool," she added of the collection. "There are some romantic pieces and some rock 'n' roll pieces, too."

Gilhart said key pieces include a white one-shoulder eyelet dress, a silver-studded jersey top, short shorts and a racer-back tank top.She added that, save for a few edits here and there, Barneys picked up the collection almost in its entirety, with plans to sell it in Co-op departments. While details of the store presentation are still being figured out, Gilhart said it most likely will be displayed in special areas, and called out through displays and merchandise on the floor. "We're also doing windows…and Simon [Doonan, creative director] is channeling Kate for them."

Even if the deal is an exception to the rule for Barneys, the move to bring in a line at such mainstream prices is a further sign of just how democratic fashion has become.

Until recently, fashion has always cultivated an elitist attitude: invitation-only runway shows, haute couture for one special customer and prices that exclude all but the wealthiest tier. In the past five years, however, fashion has been trickling down to the masses. Web sites such as Style.com have brought looks from the catwalks of Paris, Milan and New York into millions of homes. The trend toward demi-couture — ready-to-wear with couture-quality details — is gaining popularity, and designers have created low-priced offerings for value-oriented retailers.

Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Viktor & Rolf caused a stir at H&M with limited edition collections. Target's Go International program of capsule collections from rising stars has included Luella Bartley, Tara Jarmon, Sophie Albou, Behnaz Sarafpour and Proenza Schouler. In November, Roland Mouret collaborated with Gap Inc. on a capsule collection of dresses that were sold primarily in Europe, with a limited number in Gap's New York stores. Meanwhile, Christopher Kane and Marion Schwab also teamed up with Topshop, and Giles Deacon designed for New Look.

Isaac Mizrahi, of course, created one of the first high-low business models by balancing a populist-priced line for Target, which launched in 2003, with a custom collection introduced at Bergdorf Goodman the following year.

Designers have always had populist leanings. In the Forties and Fifties, department stores sent buyers to the Paris shows, where they purchased garments to copy, sometimes with the tacit approval of the designers themselves. In the late Seventies, Halston created a collection for J.C. Penney, but his association with Penney's ultimately hurt his image at upscale retailers such as Bergdorf's, which unceremoniously dumped him. "If you were creating a meal and everything was foie gras and truffles, everyone would barf," Mizrahi told WWD last year. "[On the other hand] if all you ate was pizza, you would want caviar after a while. It's the same with clothes and decor….Halston began to see the light, but he couldn't do it because society wasn't ready for it. It feels right to me now."What's changed since Halston's day? For one thing, cross-shopping: In the last decade, consumers have gotten comfortable with shopping at a variety of retailers, where, prior to that, the wealthy stuck to luxury stores and those with modest incomes frequented discounters. Today, it's not unusual to see BMWs and Mercedes in the parking lots of Wal-Mart and Target. This doesn't mean that everybody's buying apparel, however. Some designer customers only shop the grocery, consumables and hard goods aisles.

H&M's three designer launches have been feeding frenzies, with some styles selling out within hours of the stores' openings and the entire inventory gone within a matter of days. Target has done well with special events held to publicize a Go designer. The Proenza Schouler collection was introduced at a party at Opening Ceremony, which was packed with fashion editors and other style-worthy guests invited either by the giant mass chain or the owners of the hip downtown boutique. Paris' Colette featured the Proenza Schouler for Target line for a limited time. Reaction to the collection in Paris was mixed, with some shoppers thinking they'd found the sale rack when they saw the wallet-friendly prices.

As for any future non-Moss Topshop items that Barneys could possibly scoop up, Gilhart said: "We are always open to everything, but right now we are just concentrating on Kate."

-- The WWD Staff

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