Topshop UNIQUE’s 2015 Autumn/Winter collection thoroughly encompasses the brand’s talent for engineering a perfect balance between designer ambition and high street pragmatism. Amid the avant-garde storm conjured by a cocktail of Gareth Pugh’s gothic architectural collection, and Pam Hogg’s demonic creations, Topshop’s collection brought fashion back to reality. The subtle yet distinctive colour scheme, and sharp, attentive cuts of the now seminal British brand were London Fashion Week’s cup and saucer of English tea – a refined comfort in a sea of the surreal.
The sweeping, cavernous halls of the Tate Britain were converted into a runway of breathtaking scale and grandeur for the highly anticipated show. With one of the most crowded photographers’ pits of the week and an array of well-known faces in the front row, including Topshop’s own Cara Delevingne and brand chairman Sir Phillip Green, the label’s firmly established reputation was evident.
Topshop has spent many a season proving its worth alongside the likes of designer powerhouses such as Burberry and Vivienne Westwood. Now, its own sizeable niche, carved with deliberation and diligence over the last decade, affords the brand the kind of freedom and nonchalance formerly reserved only for Britain’s most prestigious houses. This assuredness permeates through the indifferent delay of the showing, and the claim made on the issued document about the brand’s ‘far-reaching hold on forward-thinking fashion’.
As the lights are brought down and tension builds to the sound of synthesised strings, the silhouette of a model appears on the runway, commencing the first phase of the collection – daywear. Beiges and speckled grey faux-furs prevail, worked into duffel coats and shift dresses creating a clean, textured finish. Flashes of dark brown
leather are introduced, first in the form of streamlined hunting boots and later as a high waisted, figure hugging trouser. A distinctive, sparse thistle pattern runs throughout the collection, first in purples and greens over a white day dress, and then in yellows over an autumnal ochre on a similar garment. Three striking tartan numbers follow the thistle prints, juxtaposing brown and clay tones with more heavy fur detailing, setting this phase of the collection firmly in the realms of rural and pastoral chic.
Some subtle structural shifts move the collection into its second phase: formal or office daywear. Fresh colour palattes are introduced via a short, sky blue skirt and blazer combination, set over the same tone of ochre, this time worked into a loose fitting, v-neck shirt. Skin tone wax-effect leathers are next, appearing as a flared knee length skirt and a precisely tailored, minimally ornamented overcoat. Sky blue cottons and wools transform to glossy vinyl in austere phthalo green as the collection begins its transition from purposeful chic to energetic eveningwear.
It is here that the collection breathes most freely and flexes its muscles of showmanship. The thistle pattern returns, now in silver and gold ornamentation over a black velvet skirt and bodycon keyhole dress. Some flashes of lace and a striking bronze velvet manifest as a leggy, slimming dungaree and single button blazer, drawing a flurry of camera flashes from the crowd. The collection concludes with a looser, exaggerated take on earlier fur trims, with black ostrich feather panelling incorporated into a classic black cocktail dress.
The collection is adventurous yet purposeful, exacting yet instinctive – it pinpoints the kind of ideals that we don’t recognise as our own until we see them paraded before us with such finesse. It’s a show of confidence and contentedness from a label with ideas to match its faith in heritage. This extends backstage, where the atmosphere is not of relief, but of congratulations. Alexa Chung and Pixie Geldof pose with the design team as models mill about indifferently. For all the surrealism and celebrity, this is simply another work environment – a day at the office, where champagne substitutes for coffee and couture is a pair of sensible heels.