Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week / Getty

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique, they come for canny rip-offs of high fashion

There's a degree of irony to the fact that Topshop subtitle their catwalk-showcased premium line “Unique”. Because it's not about being unique, at all. Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique, they come for canny rip-offs of high fashion, a fast fix easily consumed, passed through the system and then flushed in favour of the new.

So then, there's something of a conundrum when it comes to Unique, designed (yes, indeed) by Emma Farrow. On the one hand, Farrow must long to place her own imprint on the line - it has a swanky, fully-fledged catwalk showcase each season in prime position on the London schedule. But on the other hand, the pressure to create something commercially viable, even when pushed to the point of prosaic, weighs heavier on her shoulder than most designers. Unenviable is the task.

In the end, the spring/summer 2015 Topshop Unique show was an uncomfortable marriage of those two goals. It opened with sportswear, seventies-tinged in Sergio Tacchini shades of burgundy, powder blue, red and every shade of brown. It had a certain punchy energy, part Athena poster part last spring Prada, even if that came more from the music and stomp of the models on wedge and cylindrical block-heels than the garments themselves.

They were fine - in luxury fabrics, the simple block colours would sing and have a slick desirability stripped of obvious fashion references. Of course, the issue is that the fabrics at high street level (even high-end high street like this) can't begin to approach the quality levels the customer for this jumped-up sporty stuff would actually demand. That's a simple fact. So where do the Topshop Unique clothes fit in an already crowded marketplace, and who will buy them?


That's a simple but fundamental question. There were designs that seemed better geared to the financial restraints of the label - the ruffled poplin and silk dresses towards the close of the show, for instance. The fabrics certainly looked cheaper. Whether that ultimately increased their desirability, or benefited the design, is doubtful.

Given the conflicting, convoluted demands, Topshop is a ferociously tricky show to nail. In seasons past it has worked - but this time round there was something of a misstep, even in those heavy soled shoes.