Arcadia has gone into administration, completing Sir Philip Green’s fall from the king of the high street. Here we look at the tycoon’s brands from a fashion perspective:
Bright, buzzy and big, Topshop was once as agenda-setting as the high street got. At the Oxford Street HQ, every square inch was filled with the latest catwalk trend, a fashion-forward accessory or, randomly, a wall full of pick and mix. Its denim range was gamechanging and it collaborations were inspired and occasionally on point (Kate Moss, Jonathan Saunders). Yes, Topshop suggests the shopper has the attention span of a gnat, but it also feels truly aspirational, like your life could be changed by one purchase. Despite some of its shine being taken away in recent years by Primark and online stores, Topshop remains the most fashion forward of the big high street stores.
Pitched somewhere south of sensible chic, if Topshop was Fleabag, Wallis is the uptight, sensible older sister. With no-nonsense clean lines and work-centric looks, Wallis’s clothes are dispassionate and sober. The brand’s petite range was important, catering to a demographic that was sometimes ignored on the high street. But in general, the clothes are hard to get too excited about.
Truly pioneering in its plus-size ranges, Evans has been democratising high street fashion since the 30s when the first branch opened. Evans doesn’t put customers in predictable boxes – its range of styles importantly shows a world beyond “frumpy”.
For a period, Topman managed to inject the usually glacial high street menswear scene with some much-needed fun and excitement. It also seamlessly bridged the gap between “high street” and “high end” with a place at the London fashion week table and collaborations with people such as the designer Charlie Casely-Hayford and spin-off ranges such as AAA and Topman Signature. What Topman lacks in durable basics it makes up for in whip-smart seasonal trends and occasional out-of-the-box collaborations.
Burton was founded in 1904 and was responsible for making three-piece suits for soldiers returning from the second world war. And while it will always be known for its all-in-one suit – for every occasion from weddings to job interviews – Burton is coy when inching out of the tailoring realm. Its daywear always has a slightly awkward feel about it: clothes for a dad who “still has it”.
Pre-internet, Miss Selfridge was the coming-of-clothing-age store for young girls. But recently Miss Selfridge ploughed the same ground as Boohoo and Pretty Little Things: play hard, working girl chic 2.0, although it does it in a much less controversial way.
Once a huge brand, with about 350 shops at one point. It was a precursor to Topshop’s seamless meshing of celebrity and commerce (Yasmin Le Bon was the face of the brand in the 90s, pre-megafame Kardashians did a collaboration). “Dotty P” became known for its homespun, indistinct style. Currently the typical Dorothy Perkins customer is “every woman” but the problem with being defined like that is that your modus operandi becomes lost in the hustle and bustle of the high street.