Will You Drop for Topshop?

“It is along the lines of Club Monaco, classic basics, but slightly more fun than that,” suggested Rebecca Guinness, another New York–based British gal about town.

“I think the American equivalent is when Target has the designers do things, like the McQueen collection,” said Poppy de Villeneuve, a New York–based British photographer (not to be confused with Ms. Delevigne) who often pairs Topshop T-shirts with skirts by her good friend Zac Posen. “It’s like H&M but it’s more … It’s very British. It’s kind of what the girls on the street wear in a very cool way. The way the British put things together, they’re kind of a bit more haphazard about it.”

Mr. Leahy revealed that the new store will feature a Kate Moss boutique for the model’s line, which is produced four times yearly and will soon include lingerie. There will also be new collections by insidery British designers like Jonathan Saunders and Preen and areas for costume jewelry, shoes, maternity, petites, talls, men, hats and bags—a veritable department store of cheap, aggressively cool stuff! “We know that in New York there are a lot of brands offering great basics,” he said. “So ours will be a little more fashion-heavy, more fashion specialties per square meter in a way. We don’t buy huge bulk of any one style, we don’t buy millions or even hundreds of thousands; we might buy 5,000 or we might buy 50.”

 

‘TROUSERS’ AND ‘JUMPERS’

Indeed, the store cycles in fresh inventory constantly, and is known for reincarnating favorite styles with small stylistic adjustments or fabric switch-ups rather than just ordering more of the same.

The Oxford Circus flagship has long been a testing area of sorts for more fashion-forward innovations, and it is hoped that the New York store, the brand’s first nonfranchised, fully owned international concern, will serve as a similar hub of creativity and experimentation, continuing to focus on cultivating British design talent (“Few people do,” said Mr. Leahy), but open to collaborating with Americans, too. (Though the U.S. Web site includes the charming terminology “trousers” and “jumpers.”)

Retail analysts are enthusiastic.

“It’s going to be incredible!” thundered Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a retail consulting outfit headquartered in New York. “If you go back and look at the big stores in New York that are underwater, you have Macy’s down, and you have Bloomingdale’s, which is a division of Macy’s; you have Saks losing $100 million last quarter. …”

Topshop, he said, was at the forefront of the winning formula familiar to us from H&M and Zara. “We’re getting a new wave of imported stores from Europe, and honestly, they appear to be doing very well,” he said. “And a lot of our fashion retailers, like Abercrombie, which is in the shithouse; Gap, the largest apparel chain in the U.S., down six straight years—ours are all doing terrible. But theirs seem to be growing very rapidly, and suddenly they’re able to come here. I don’t think we’re able to go there!

Until now, Topshop has been in the enviable position of being able to offer good prices (not as low as H&M’s, but, at $80 for the popular Baxter skinny jean and $125 for a neon leopard print “playsuit,” still more affordable than boutique shopping) with a elusive dose of jet-set cache.

But despite its astonishing inventory and cute, compelling British-ness, some Topshop devotees admit that “you’ve got to be really careful of if you’re trying to be a global brand like that, about actually cannibalizing your coolness by being successful,” as Ms. Sykes put it.

“Just in terms of being selfish about things I wear, when people are like, ‘Oh, that’s so cute, where can I get?’, I’m like, ‘You can’t!’” said Ms. Guinness, bemoaning the impending ubiquity of her favorite Topshop items.

Ms. Delevigne noted that she’d once shown up to a summer cocktail party in London wearing the exact same Kate Moss for Topshop tennis dress as two other attendees, a scene that she predicted would start taking place in New York, too.

Still, she pointed out: “It would be a real shame if you turned up at a party and someone else was in the same Balenciaga dress as you, but if you turn up and you’re in the same Topshop dress, it’s absolutely fine, because you know you didn’t pay that much for it and it kind of makes it more fun anyway.”

In London, swarms of international tourists and leggings-mad teenagers have done nothing to calm the rising tide of Topshop mania.

“To be honest, the one in London is so mobbed by 14-year-olds I cannot even tell you,” Ms. Sykes complained. “It’s like going to a rock concert. … I’m 38 years old, so I’ve got to be feeling really, really up for it if I’m going to shop there as opposed to shopping at, like, Alexander McQueen.”

And so New York women are bracing themselves for battle.

“All my American friends, they’re literally going mad about it,” Ms. Delevigne said. “There’s a lot of complaining. … I think the more it’s been delayed, the more anticipation there is.”

mbryan@observer.com