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Topshop, New York

British Invasion: The U.K. fashion retailer has landed on American shores with all the subtlety of a Mack lorry. VMSD’s European editor was there for its opening day.

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On April 2, crowds lined up around the block to be the first inside U.K. retailer Topshop’s new U.S. flagship in New York. The windows were plastered with punk-style posters of Kate Moss set against a massive Union Jack spread; Moss herself cut the ribbon with Topshop owner Sir Philip Green, allowing shoppers to storm the interior while canons blasted red, white and blue tickertape across the front of the shop.

Located on Broadway right in the heart of SoHo, Topshop shares the scene with other popular imports including Uniqlo, H&M and Prada. Topshop occupies one of the turn-of-the-century, cast-iron buildings that define this New York neighborhood and trades from 40,000 square feet across four floors.

Originally scheduled to open in October 2008, the store was hit by planning permission delays. And with an internal rebuild and refit cost of around $30 million, the project was not only expensive, but a major gamble for Green as he seeks to turn the brand from a broadly U.K. phenomenon into a truly cross-border force.

While the wares range from two-for-$20 t-shirts to $600 Kate Moss dresses (just as they do in the U.K.), the interior of the New York store is almost entirely different from anything that can be seen across the pond. The London flagship, for example, has a generally disordered feel about it – in part owing to the store’s internal geography, but also because of the sheer density of the product displays. Not so here.

Designed by London-based design consultancy Dalziel + Pow, the main selling area greets shoppers with enormous British flags suspended from the ceiling. Mannequins on circular plinths lie just beyond the flags, announcing the womenswear and accessories departments. The rest of the floor takes full advantage of the existing architecture. Internal steel pillars, topped by Ionic capitals, have been painted white to blend with the white floor while providing a strong contrast with the black ceiling void. Overhead, a suspended white raft breaks up the void and serves as both a feature in its own right and a lighting rig. Garlands of brightly colored paper flowers soften the potentially severe interior panorama and, at the back of the floor, a balcony provides a home for a promised line-up of well-known DJs.

Head up to the second floor via an escalator ride that’s an event in itself. On the wall that backs the escalator atrium, a store-high graphic picks up all things London-related with images of street signs in the U.K. capital, red double-decker buses and even a picture of creative director David Dalziel’s wife as a child. Topshop stamps its U.K. fashion credentials across this panorama, which has been printed onto a stretch ecru canvas to allow for seasonal changes.

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The second floor features in-shop boutiques, each with its own dedicated fixturing. First is a 750-square-foot space for the Kate Moss line. Nearby, the “Boutique” section houses the store’s most expensive inventory, shining a spotlight on new British designers’ wares. This floor and the one above it benefit from large windows and lots of natural daylight.

The top of the shop contains swimwear and a modestly sized lingerie department, but it’s the shoe department that’s the real showstopper. Dubbed the “Shoe Lounge,” it boasts Baroque-style chairs and silver upholstered benches as well as glamorous open-fronted wardrobes, mirrored and with back-lit shelves. Crystal chandeliers and freestanding mirrors complete the princess-for-a-day aesthetic.

So will this particular British invasion continue across American soil? Says Green, “I don’t know. There are lots and lots and lots of options. I think most people will say that as a company we’re in good shape. We’re sensible. We’re patient. Everything’s thought about and measured.” Market rumor and Topshop managing director Mary Homer, however, both indicate that Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas and a second New York outlet are all under consideration.
 

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