Towards the end of the Kate Moss for TopShop collaboration, you could almost feel the braincells at the Arcadia Group (which owns TopShop) head office exercising over what to do next.
Designer collaborations are one thing. A collaboration with a "stylish person" quite another. A "stylish person" is not and will never be a designer (except for Kanye West, showing at Paris Fashion Week in September so I hear), and there is only so much steam to generate before it all peters out.
So, what next? Curators, of course! Every major fashion boutique has a curator, a custodian who manages and oversees their institution, your Mrs B (Browns), or Carla Sozzani (Corso Como, 10) figure. Strictly speaking the term should apply to someone who manages a library or museum, as has been pointed out to me on Twitter, but fashion has nicked the term for its own ends.
On the world stage of high street retailing TopShop were first past the post with the idea. Earlier this year they set up their "Edited by" space at their flagship Oxford Circus store, a normal room-sized area for the design team to put their selection of what they consider to be the key fashion pieces. That idea was OK, (though I would always just head to the Boutique section of the store for my Top-shopping) but they really hit pay dirt a few weeks ago when "Edited by" got its first curator in the shape of the visionary young stylist Katie Shillingford from Dazed & Confused. (I still sigh with happiness everytime I so much as think about the divine wedding pictures from her August 1st nuptials.)
Katie Shillingford (via Hanneli.com)
Katie Shillingford's Edited By..(from insideout.TopShop.com)
Instead of creating a collaborative collection, just get someone with an amazing, unexpected fashion insider's eye to edit what's already out there, across basics and higher end product, down into an easy to digest package. Eureka! Not only do you get the vision of one unique person wrapped up, it also means you don't have to trawl the entire shop to find something that will jolt you out of your own fashion and style zone into a fresh new area. Katie's edit re-framed micro-mini dresses styled with Quentin Crisp jaunty coloured hats and animal prints, as more high fashion than high tart.
It makes so much sense, you wonder why the high street haven't done it before. “We needed to update the collaborations idea – mostly because everyone from Debenhams to Asda are doing it,” says Andrew Leahy, head of press at TopShop told me. “People are getting bored of collaborations. We even found with our designer collections that people – especially through our .com - are buying into key pieces, the add-on elements that are not signature pieces from the designer don’t sell because they don’t resonate with the customer.”
The next "Edited by..." curator is Susie Lau who will bring her magpie eye to TopShop from Sept 1. For London Fashion Week, from 16th September, the curator will be my friend and Fashion East impresario Lulu Kennedy. I can't wait for either Lulu or Susie's edits to hit TopShop in both London and Manchester flagship stores and online, definitely a reason to shop.
TopShop are not alone in this though. Second past the post with a curator concept is H&M who have hired MisShapes DJ and all round fashion muse Leigh Lezark to help launch their shop-in-shop at Selfridges next Thursday. The Selfridges store is also an "Edited" concept, and they too have taken on a curator and it's the first time H&M have gone into a store without their name above the door.
Leigh and the Misshapes
Coat: Curated by Leigh
Dress: curated by Leigh
Striped top: curated by Leigh
Jacket: curated by Leigh
If you want, you can even meet Leigh next Thursday, August 25th at Selfridges Oxford Street from 9.30am. Personally I look forward to seeing H&;M's rolling list of curators for this project. Let's hope that between them TopShop and H&M keep this new curatorial chapter interesting.