The Topshop Effect

By Zoe Walker

6 comments
Global retail giant Topshop, which shows its Unique line during London Fashion Week, will open a stand-alone store on Queen St later this year. Picture / AP Images
Global retail giant Topshop, which shows its Unique line during London Fashion Week, will open a stand-alone store on Queen St later this year. Picture / AP Images

Topshop is coming, and the local fashion industry should be prepared.

Later this year, the British retail icon will open a 1000sq m multi-level store on Queen St offering full, in-season Topshop and Topman collections. It will be the first of more stand-alone stores to be rolled out across the country, and follows the brand's presence locally with a small concession within The Department Store since 2010.

This is huge news for local fashion retail, especially with the opening of Prada and Dior flagships in Auckland later this year. These are huge global businesses from across the fashion spectrum - high and low - valuing the New Zealand market.

The arrival of a multinational fashion chain here has been inevitable. The likes of Topshop, Zara, H&M and Uniqlo have all invested heavily in the Australian market, with the influx of international competition - including luxury brands - causing an upheaval in its fashion industry at all levels.

The impact is likely to be less dramatic here, but there are valuable lessons to be learned from Australia.

Our industry has so much talent that should be celebrated, but in some quarters I do sense complacency: an attitude that New Zealand fashion is great because it's New Zealand fashion. That is an old-fashioned view. Fashion is global and our designers and retailers need to be able to compete at that level - online and as more international competitors arrive physically in the local market.

• Read the background to Topshop's expansion.

I'm also disappointed to still see international knock-offs from some of our local designers. Topshop does similar "runway inspired" pieces, and its arrival here should - hopefully - mean that local designers won't be able to get away with it anymore: savvy consumers will be able to get the same ideas at a much cheaper price, and quicker.

But originality and quality will succeed, no matter the competition: now, if New Zealand designers and retailers haven't already, is the time to adapt and re-evaluate what makes their brand special.

Last year the Guardian reported on designer Alannah Hill stepping away from the label she founded and the squeeze on Australian brands from international competitors. In that, retail strategist Stephen Kulmar said he believed that, "the brands that are not good enough to compete at the top end or that lack that originality and creativity will disappear".

As our own retail market continues to open up to the world that message should resonate here. Those with an interesting and unique vision will flourish. The rest are going to find the next few years increasingly difficult.

- VIVA

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