Niamh Buckley discusses the recent acquisition of the Topshop brand by prolific online retailer ASOS.
ASOS has taken over Topshop, absorbing it and other brands from the Arcadia group into its corporation. Considering the recent surge in online fashion retail, then this development does not come as a total shock. Personally, I stopped shopping in Topshop a while ago. The products no longer tickle my fancy. Nothing hit the mark quality, design, or price-wise. It was obvious that the one-time retail giant had faded from the high street into almost complete nullity. It is strange to think that not so long ago, Topshop was considered to be the upper crust of high street shopping. Oh, how times have changed!
In my teens, Topshop was a place of worship. The Oxford Circus store in London was considered the epitome of high street fashion retail outlets. Girls in my school year would come back from their London city breaks and all they would tell tales of the megastore: “sixty stories high, with an instore cupcake concession and I actually saw Alexa Chung there!” I cannot imagine that it was easy to identify her in a sea of mini wannabes! Oxford Circus Topshop outlet had that British it-girl association with the likes of fashion icons Kate Moss and Alexa Chung regularly frequenting the store. Living in Cork, we would go into town after school, picking out whatever abomination we would excitedly wear that weekend at the GAA disco. If you were really going for style, it had to be an item from Topshop. We all remember the MTV crop top, and who could forget the button-up denim miniskirt, you know the one! Items like these were the cornerstones of the teenage girl’s wardrobe- they were the essentials. How did this oracle of youth fashion fade away into irrelevancy?
Firstly, the price has always been extortionate for the quality of garment on offer. But then again, in our youth we were less interested in quality, oblivious to the harsh realities and dubious shortcomings of high street and fast fashion regarding sustainability and ethical production. We paid for the look, the style, clothing that represented the young, fresh and ‘cool’. As our styles evolved, we grew out of our American flag printed denim shorts, but Topshop failed to grow with us. The brand has tried to keep up with consumer tastes, but the issue lies with the shop’s inability to deliver a product that fits the consumer’s desires. Whenever I visited the store (pre-pandemic) nothing seemed to excite me in the way it used to. Add in the huge mark-up and for me there is nothing that “sparks joy”.
Sustainability has been another big issue in the conversation on fast fashion. In the last decade, the ‘unsustainability’ of the high street has been exposed. Our generation has begun to turn away from fast fashion and has started to look into sustainably and ethically sourced clothing. Vintage and second-hand have become the norm thanks to apps such as Depop, eBay, Vestiaire Collective and ASOS Marketplace just to name a few. The ease of use in these apps, and the variety available would convert anyone from high-street to sustainable shopping. While Topshop incorporated vintage concession stands into its stores, it was hardly a means of keeping afloat.
In spite of this, the brand may still prosper in finding its new online home at ASOS. Topshop has not been alone in its struggles against modern times, with other retail giants like Debenhams and Oasis closing their doors. In addition to the pandemic and the dire consequences it has had on the retail sector, customers are now in search of sustainably sourced fashion, curbing the demand for cheaply made fast fashion garments. It remains to be seen whether Topshop’s amalgamation into ASOS can restore some of the success that the brand once had.