The humble British High Street is pretty much exactly that: uniquely British. I haven't seen the same super quick reaction to catwalk, streetstyle, celebrity outfit trends replicated in any other country and Britain is blessed/cursed (whichever way you want to look at it) with a pretty rich variety in 'high street' stores to satisfy the those in need of a cheap, fast fix in fashion. Out of the pack though, (Warehouse, Miss Selfridge, Oasis, New Look, Dorothy Perkins etc), we all know who leads the pack.... no surprises there; it's Topshop.
It packs the punches because it tries very hard to distinguish itself from the rest and most of the time, Topshop succeeds. The Boutique range, offering edged-up, made in more limited runs. Unique, a catwalk show-worthy collection that gives the customer the impression they are buying into something more luxurious and well...unique! Sponsoring young designers for London Fashion Week as part of New Generation leading to successful designer collaborations with an interesting range of aesthetics (Peter Jensen, Preen, Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab...don't need to repeat the drill again...). Lower-priced collaborations with the REALLY fresh in designers (Christian Joy, Laura Lees, Steve J & Yoni P etc). Then of course, a fiscally successful celebrity design contract with fashion's most wanted; Kate Moss (successful for Topshop, not for me though...). They seem to want to do it all.
Now, they have tapped into another way to push themselves forward as a fashion one-stop drop (don't you feel like that's what it's trying to be when you're in Oxford Circus store??). Today, they launched Archive, getting back to the roots of British high street and offering sourced vintage pieces from the 60's and 70's from labels that gave London that description of being 'swinging'. At the moment they have offerings from:
When I first heard they they had plans to launch this expansion into high-end vintage, I was skeptical. Perhaps being in London, I'm spoilt by rich offerings from stores like One of a Kind on Portobello Road, Virginia, Rellik, Steinberg & Tolkien and would much prefer to see the garments with my very own eyes rather than click blankly at a screen where I can't feel or smell the 'soul' of vintage rarities. Now that it has launched, I think I'll have to give Topshop another gold star for not just giving non-London people the chance to buy a very specialist sector of designer vintage but also a little education about the labels with their bio pages (click each label above). They also give vintage garment care notes that are quite useful.
Jean Varon Dresses
Mary Quant Shirt and Dress
Lee Bender @ Bus Stop Print Dresses
Biba Skirt and Jacket // Radley Dress (my favourite piece from Archive's current stock..)
The prices are exactly what I would expect to see in vintage stores in London as designer vintage is increasingly about 'knowing its worth' as opposed to randomly finding a designer find in a pile of tat (boo hoo, those occurences are getting rarer and rarer....).
Of course my other skepticism was that Topshop was trying to dip their fingers into too many pies as one would argue establishments like C20th do it better. They have a wonderful archive of the same labels, and it's an insider vintage farm for designers to gather inspiration from but little to know to the outside world. Stores like Rellik and Virgina might also have a bit of a cow at Topshop's move into vintage. The motives of course is to broaden Topshop's range in fashion and to make it profitable (A commentor who has been on the inside brings up some very unnerving things about Arcadia). You may not find the same passion and soul behind Archive and thus, I'm not going to become an Archive customer but I think their intentions are definitely beneficial for those that aren't spoilt by London.
They also intend to offer international designer vintage such as Lanvin, Chanel and Dior, again dipping their toes into a more mainstream high-end vintage sector. Is there a month when I'm NOT tracking ANOTHER Topshop development? Mental I tells ya....