london fashion week: topshop unique
(images via wwd)
though i haven’t been following the work of the team at topshop unique (and, in the past couple of seasons, newbie designer kate phelan) as closely as some of their london competitors (opt’s coverage has been, at best, rather spotty—see a/w 2011, s/s 2012, a/w 2012), but on the other hand, i believe i’ve usually something rather upbeat to say, and there are few collections i’ve praised (or pointed to as a particular trend-setting notion) as frequently as their marvelous raver-girl a/w 2009 range. i’ve tended to like their youthful (but usually not too much so) outlook combined with a sense of humour, kind of like what we’ve seen these last couple of seasons at brazil’s coca-cola clothing.
so it makes me a little sad to have to decree that i didn’t really find the house’s heavily black-and-white s/s 2013 show (which presumed to be more ‘sophisticated’ and ‘grown up’, i suppose) to be all that. but i suppose it depends on how one looks at it; after all, us vogue opined that “in some ways it’s the bravest move Topshop could make. After a decade or so of creating looks that referenced the vagaries of street style with an intense speed, this shift to clothes that could dress women in their 30s, 40s, and beyond might just be a smart one.”
“One thing about fast fashion is that it has tended to skew ever younger. Unique’s vision of spring will speak to those in that until-now disenfranchised constituency who don’t think they have one foot in the grave but have it firmly planted in a closet full of pieces that are cool, nuanced, and youthful without being young,” they continued, which makes for a really good point. and while on the one hand, i want to fully embrace what they’re saying, on the other, i can’t help feeling that perhaps ms. phelan could have allowed for the topshop girl to do some growing up without losing all of her pizazz, like marianne at the conclusion of (and after the death of her great romance in) sense and sensibility.
and indeed, it will be interesting to see where the critics fall. for example, suzy menkes of the iht seemed to concur with me to some extent, writing that “(a)lthough there were dresses in transparent fabrics with blocks of opaque fabric to provide modesty, the show was noticeably unsexy — more an offering of oversized duster coats and geometric patterns, designed as if on a grid. Black, white, yellow and bright navy, with a touch of powder pink, were the only noticeable colors, making this the most ‘grown-up’ look from the Unique label — but not necessarily the most dynamic.” word, non?
meanwhile, according to wwd, the range “was built on fabrics that revealed and concealed the body, all worked into insouciant, unstructured silhouettes. Sheer chiffon dresses came in loose shift shapes and were appliquéd with angular, devoré motifs, while others were done in roomy caftans. They contrasted with more substantial pieces, such as oversize sweaters — one of which was paired with a sequined and chiffon skirt — boxy blazers and slouchy, cocoonlike jackets. The collection — done in a spare palette of black, white, silver and gray — marked a sophisticated turn for Topshop’s higher-end label.”
and the telegraph weighed in that “(b)lack and white oversized checks on crisp cotton, geometric dresses with a Bauhaus influence, an oversized white trouser suit, asymmetric zip sweatshirts, one shoulder dresses in fine jersey, and oversized slouchy jackets,” while after quoting ms. phelan as explaining she thinks of the label as “Topshop’s big sister,” style went on to comment that “Topshop may well be the ne plus ultra of fast fashion, but big sister is developing a look that lasts.”
similarly, after waxing on praise about the venue, elle finally got to the point in stating that “(t)he clothes were just as cool as the setting. After Jourdan Dunn stepped out in the first look [top], a sheer white dress with strategically placed opaque panels, it was clear that this season would be a lighter continuation of the themes started in AW12. No bells, whistles, patterns or blaring embellishment here, thanks—just sleek, versatile clothes. Standouts included wide-legged, silver lamé-fronted white trousers, oversized sleeveless biker jackets and a dipped-hem dress with a faded geometric print in black and white.”
and uk vogue, too, seemed by-and-large pleased with the outcome, professing that “Jourdan Dunn opened the show in a simple white-on-white shoe-string strap dress that set the tone. There was black and white plaid too…which came in the form of an overcoat followed by trousers worn with a matching shirt, before the print was blown up and simplified into a monochrome brush stroke check. It all looked refreshingly modern, but without veering into scary territory. Chiffon dresses were embellished with a graphic beaded windowpane pattern; a sequin skirt was paired with a grey scuba sweatshirt, while a white tulip shaped jumper was worn with a taupe PVC miniskirt. A highlight was a devoré black trouser suit.”
and finally, the guardian offered that “Kate Phelan…is at the vanguard of the new mood…’The spirit of 90s fashion was all about women wearing clothes their own way, about a free and individual style that isn’t about copying catwalk looks. That’s what this idea of a 90s revival is about, because that’s the way I look at fashion now, so those ideas feel very powerful.’ Fluid suits, draped dresses, soft trousers and relaxed tailoring were the foundations of the Unique collection, the monochrome mood softened with pale pink and silver. A two-piece of trousers and duster coat in fluid, daffodil-hued silk will be worn together on the catwalk, but as Phelan put it: ‘I’d also wear the coat over jeans and a T-shirt, or over a black dress for evening.’” well, she would. but will the rest? homegirl has only been chez unique for the past year. the rest remains to be seen.
(see the full fashion show video here)