Walking into Topman isn’t a pretty sight. If the faux nu-rave window display complete with propped up neon tubes highlighting the poorly styled mannequins, clad in neon-super-tight-cutting-off-circulation-to-the-downstairs-area skinny jeans and various logo-ed t-shirts that are supposed to shout out in a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ (don’t you find that people throw this phrase around way too often….suddenly everything is a bit cheeky….well, it’s not…) manner that ‘Yeah, Rave is Great!’ but actually singles the wearer out as an absolute idiot.
Then the store itself. Unfortunately, whereas going to Topshop for a girl is fantastico in terms of the array of wares on sale and nifty features like a nail bar, hairdressers, cafe for one to shop in (bar Saturdays…Topshop will always be hellish on a Saturday….), going to Topman can be a bit of a chore. For a start, there’s only one floor so that same array of wares isn’t really going to be on offer for guys and narrowmindedly, they don’t cater to all tastes either.
Another thing is that Topshop partakes in regular collaborations with designers all the time to bring about interesting diffusion lines. Preen, Marios Schwab, Christopher Kane, Emma Cook are just some of the names they have worked with (and fund in their New Generation programme). Topman have only just started to dip their toes by funding the MAN fashion show, showcasing fresh menswear designers at London Fashion Week and now they have gone and done something that I think will bring them up to speed with their sister store.
As part of a series of ongoing projects that invites a selection of designers to interpret their vision of a certain garment, the first of these projects is ‘The White Shirt’. I think most people reach a certain age when they think ‘Actually, back to basics doesn’t mean I’m a boring old fart’ and certainly with a white shirt I’m interested in how designers can push the limit with it. Like the revamp that the white shirt got from the CDFA winner designers at Gap, guys don’t miss out here with Topman”s take on the white shirt.
Ute Ploier has done a biker style shirt with ribbed cuffs and hem with shoulder detailing:
Deryck Walker has added elasticated embellishment to the sleeves and the back:
Personally I feel it’s quite overpriced, particularly with some of the shirts. The strongest, in my opinion, is the Ute Ploier biker jacket and the Deryck Walker elasticated version, with its ‘distinct sportswear feel’ (below left). They feel like the most useful and least gimmicky; you could imagine wearing the Ute one in a million different ways:
Carola Euler has incorporated a detachable collar as well as a thin tie so that you can wear it in various ways:
Siv Stoldal’s geometric print mixes up the texture by adding sheen to the squares:
Richard Nicoll who has love affairs with the white shirt for his womenswear collection went all out on this Western-styled shirt, with square buttons, a bib front and also a star stitched on the back. I did think the star was a bit over-kill but when everything is in stark white cotton, all is forgiven.
The Topman Design team have also had a go at the white shirt by applying a trompe d’oeil effect of a creased, worn shirt:
I’d be interested to see how these series of projects develop and with what other designers they will work with, on what other garments. For this reason alone, I hope The White Shirt is a sell-out hit. I may even contribute by buying the Ute Ploier for myself. Go, on, make Topman a better place – they hit the stores and online on August 24th and the shirts are £50 a pop.
Still, it’s well-presented and another interesting project (could you imagine Burton, Reiss or Gap doing something as artistic or relevant as this?) and I haven’t seen them in the flesh yet, so I could be pleasantly surprised. But part of me just thinks you’d get more wear out of a decent quality, well-fitted white shirt, and that undermines what I think the whole project’s about.