Late last week, the comely blond British socialite and model Poppy Delevigne, 22, called from her Nolita apartment—several blocks from the new four-story, 40,000-square-foot Topshop behemoth lurking behind covered windows at Broadway and Broome—and described some of her favorite items from the British retail chain, like an “amazing” emerald-green, one-shouldered dress designed by the model Kate Moss. >
“They did it in red and I missed it in my size and I literally cried for days, and I wear that pretty much twice a month, especially when the sun comes out,” Ms. Delevigne said. “And then I have a leather jacket that I live in every day that I bought about two years ago. It looks so old and worn, no one believes that it’s Topshop!”
Ms. Delevigne said she’d probably wear the jacket to private events for the long-awaited opening of the New York store: intimate affairs for celebrities and “friends” of the brand, which include a dinner at Balthazar and a small party at Simon Hammerstein’s downtown club the Box on Thursday, April 2, the day that—barring unforeseen disaster—Topshop will finally fling open its doors stateside.
“We’ve been waiting with bated breath,” said TeenVogue fashion news director Jane Keltner, who conceived an entire feature on British style around the store’s original October opening date. “It’s just what the recession-weary New York City fashion girl wants and needs right now—great clothes at a good price.”
But isn’t the New York City fashion girl utterly glutted with cheap chic imports, from Zara to H&M? Is it possible that, like an elusive love partner, the special appeal of Topshop has resided in its inaccessibility?
The store’s mobbed Oxford Circus flagship hawks acres of neon gummy bracelets, Batman T-shirts and shlocky accessories alongside J Brand for Topshop jeans and Ms. Moss’ exclusive three-year-old line. In New York, the brand has thus far enjoyed a more rarefied clientele: the kind of stylish New Yorker who travels often to London, or has friends who do.
Not that even the jet-setters among us won’t be happy to escape prohibitive exchange rates.
“I am living for the New York opening of Topshop!” emailed American maternity designer Liz Lange the other day from Anguilla, where she was vacationing with her blue paisley cotton racer-back Topshop beach cover-up (about $40 at the Oxford Circus store). “Everyone I know who likes to shop and likes fashion is counting the minutes.”
There have been a lot of minutes. The chain’s quotable head honcho, Sir Philip Green, told Women’s Wear Daily that the process has been “a logistical nightmare,” fingering the construction snafus and permit delays on the landmarked building for the thrice-delayed opening, and denying that the economy was at all a factor .
New York fans have been making do in the meantime with Topshop “capsule” collections at Barneys (2007) and Opening Ceremony (2004 until just recently), where the store’s inexpensive knock-off wares basked in the reflected glow of designer offerings by Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang. In September, a U.S. Web site finally allowed New Yorkers to begin shopping online, and this week, guerilla street teams will blanket downtown with Topshop gift cards. Then, at 11 a.m. on April 2, Sir Philip himself will appear at the flagship, accompanied, Topshop execs hope but will not confirm, by Ms. Moss herself. “We’re making homemade British biscuits,” said Andrew Leahy, the genial London-based Topshop publicity director.