Style Editor India Harrison-Peppe investigates whether our moral compasses should stop us from buying from retail shops
We are all partial to a bit of Topshop every now and then. It was a staple choice of mine growing up. Going to school only minutes away from the flagship store meant that ‘retail therapy’ involved us going and scanning the rails. We feigned everything from doctors appointments to family emergencies during free periods just to run along the high street, convinced that a new top might distract us from the torment of personal statements. The Oxford Street store was a haven to us, offering a days’ worth of delights; that is, if your day consists of getting your hair done in its basement salon or buying an overpriced cupcake from one of its stalls upstairs- it was a place of refuge for a teenage girl on a rainy day when window shopping trumped revising for A Levels.
It, therefore, broke my heart a little bit when I was informed about Phillip Green’s latest stunt. Having established a partnership with Penguin Publishing, Topshop had decided to feature a pop-up at the forefront of the flagship store selling ‘Feminists don’t wear pink ( and other lies)’, a recently released anthology of essays curated by Scarlett Curtis. However, Green, current chairman of Topshop, made the executive decision to disassemble the pop up only 20 minutes after it had been set up, stating that the book was 'too controversial' to advertise in-store.
It strikes me as ridiculous that Topshop, as a retailer that focusses predominantly on its female customers, is perpetuating the message that feminism is not in line with its ‘production and creative standpoint’. I grieve for the innocent, halcyon days spent dedicating the little money I had on poorly made, 2-for-1 vest tops. Alas, no longer. I will now be taking a stand and boycotting Topshop on account of its treatment of Scarlett Curtis, not to mention the many women who were invested in the publication of this book. I cannot accept another mans attempts to extinguish the successes of women- no matter how small or how large that might be. It can be anything from the denigration of girls in school, made to feel that their male counterparts are more worthy of their teacher's attention, to something as large as this: a male billionaire, oblivious of his responsibility as a figurehead of Topshop, trying to shrink the space that women occupy in a literary field.
I now feel that we owe it to the multitudes of brilliant women who contributed to the anthology (which, by the way, I couldn't recommend more highly) to not sit back and watch as the anger abates, having done nothing to help the cause. No matter how insignificant this might seem in the grand scheme of things, it highlights the issue at hand that feminism is still perceived by some as a bad word, dirty laundry pushed hastily to the back of your wardrobe, certainly not something to be aired in public- let alone the forefront of your precious store.
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PLEASE SCROLL. I’m so sorry to anyone hoping to visit our Topshop x Feminists Don’t Wear Pink pop-up this week. Yesterday was an extraordinary and heartbreaking example of the alive and kicking patriarchy and still trying to figure out how we all feel about it. Our team at Penguin is the most incredible army of women and I am ridiculously lucky to be working with them. Everyone is a bit shaken but working through it. Not allowed to say much yet but let’s just say if you dismantle our shop you better believe we’re coming to smash the patriarchy down in return #PinkNotGreen
In spite of this, it doesn't hurt to mention that Topshop is currently selling a white t-shirt with the facile slogan ‘FEMINIST’ stamped across the chest. Come on Green: the dreaded ‘f-word’ here, strewn across a boring shirt in a pitiful attempt to show some degree of concern about your main demographic. If this t-shirt is in line with Topshop's marketing strategy, then I find it hard to believe that Curtis’ book isn’t: especially when this plain white tee does not rise to the 'creative standpoint' that Green so obviously seems to aspire to.
Can you really underestimate your target audience so highly that you believe that this product is more appealing to a group of young girls? This- more than a book created by women for women? Perhaps things will change when we have people in power who are not attempting to understand the psyche behind a group of people that they can, in no way, identify with. Topshop is screaming out for a massive upheaval and, dare I say it, a new chair(wo)man?
So where does my relationship with Topshop stand? At the moment, I’m pretty pissed off. I’m starting to see the brand for what it really is; it is no longer a safe haven of delights enticing me to spend despite my impending overdraft. In fact, Topshop is now emerging as something a lot more sinister. We might be able to pass this off as another fashion faux pas (pardon the pun), but I think it’s about time that my fashion choices aligned with my morals. Topshop is just another sad way in which the patriarchy is successfully silencing women; another warped manifestation of male privilege triumphing over these empowered voices of a generation, a generation that is distinctly female. I, for one, will play no part in advocating that. So, in light of Scarlett Curtis’ book; feminists can definitely wear pink but they certainly should not be wearing Topshop.
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Featured Image: Penguin Random House
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