From the great historic department stores to the high-fashion boutiques of Bond Street, many visitors to London have a specific retailer or area in mind when they go shopping. Topshop is often high on the list. It has become a British style institution, with outlets across the country, but the megastore at Oxford Circus is the hub.
Women of all ages shop here, from teenagers to those in their 60s. Topshop offers innovative high fashion alongside affordable staples, and its style credentials are boosted by collaborations with the likes of Kate Moss, Christopher Kane, Erdem and Celia Birtwell. Choosing an outfit at Topshop has become just as fashionable as picking out pieces from Harvey Nichols.
Now there’s a new name swinging through the doors. Geoffrey Finch is already well-known in London fashion circles as creative director and co-founder of the cult clothing label Antipodium. Now the Australian’s cool design aesthetic will reach a new audience as he takes on the role of creative design consultant at Topshop, working under Vogue’s former fashion director Kate Phelan and the label’s own head of design.
‘It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,’ says Finch, who will blend his own brand of low-key, cool-girl chic into Topshop’s up-to-the-minute trend pieces. It’s a happy marriage, he says: ‘There’s a certain nonchalance that comes from growing up in Australia that is also very Topshop. What’s not to love about a sense of ease and fun? I’m fascinated by the art of retail and I’m a pop culture obsessive. Topshop is a beacon of both and I was utterly delighted when they approached me.’
Finch began his career in fashion at Antipodium, the cult Soho store and exhibition space, and went on to launch its debut clothing line in 2006. Not bad for someone with no formal training. The label, known for witty prints, humorous detailing and a sense of downtown ease, has since been sported by celebrities including Beth Ditto.
Finch is continually inspired by London street style – good news since he will now be spending the bulk of his working hours perched high above Oxford Circus in the heart of the city. ‘The wonderful energy on London’s streets has kept me in the city for more than 10 years,’ he says. ‘Anything that can punch above a long, grey British winter is indeed a force to be reckoned with.’
He lists Pixie Geldof as one of his style heroes, alongside his impeccably stylish friends in the industry. When he needs downtime or a clear head for design inspiration, Finch heads for a ‘bracing march’ in the beautiful natural environment of Hampstead Heath in north London.
Join the Circus
Such is the standing of Topshop’s Oxford Circus flagship store that Finch believes many people will, like him, remember the first time they shopped here. ‘When I first visited London I was 17 and I made my first trip to Topshop. I’d never seen anything like it. After my first day as creative design consultant of Topshop, I went for a spin around the same store and felt incredibly proud to be part of such an institution.’
Finch believes that the influence of British high street stores on the fashion industry as a whole sets a benchmark. After all, as he points out, brands such as Topshop do a great deal to support British design talent. ‘The UK high street is integral to British fashion,’ he says. ‘I love that Topshop has been such a driving force in its evolution – not just in providing access to customers, but also with initiatives like Newgen, which champions new talent.’
The broad range of Topshop’s customers, from style-fanatic teens to well-heeled grandmas, is something that appeals to Finch. ‘I love the breadth of our demographic,’ he says. ‘It’s about mindset rather than age, and with both Antipodium and Topshop, there’s an emphasis on clothes that underline personal style.’ He references the particularly British knack for embracing a range of disparate influences in a single outfit – a Topshop dress with a vintage coat, heritage bag and designer shoes, for example.
Finch describes Topshop’s team as ‘design warriors’. With creatives like him on board, we can assume the UK high street will be leading the charge for a long time to come.