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The high and mighty high street

February 16th 2013 / Anna Hunter


When it comes to being fashion-forward, the high street has never been better. Anna Hunter reports

We Brits are envied worldwide for our tea brewing abilities, disciplined queuing systems and quaint village inns. These things just don’t work elsewhere; they are impossible to recreate. Just as tea tastes funny on the continent and “pubs” on the Costa del Sol can’t compare to the George and Dragon down the road, so the great British high street is a magical, Blighty-specific entity.

Now, the high street has soared even higher, with no fewer than three of its staple brands showing at the current London Fashion Week. Suitably, the high street showcase opens with Rihanna for River Island on Saturday 16th, a collection that says a lot about the sheer ambition of both the pop superstar and high street heavyweight. Given Rihanna’s omnipotent presence in the press, the world will most certainly be watching when her ‘sassy’ designs sashay down the catwalk.

We are expecting a more prim and proper display at Whistles’ first London Fashion Week outing, but the debut of its new high end, 25-look collection during such a crucial week is nevertheless telling of a high street that’s on the up, despite the perils of the recession.

Setting the bar for such prestigious presentations was our favourite high street haunt, Topshop. With a recent store opening in Los Angeles and countless achingly cool designer collaborations, Toppers is truly top drawer when it comes to taking on the big design houses. Topshop Unique fuses high fashion and grungy desirability, strutting ahead of the competition both down catwalks and on soggy pavements. So you won’t be surprised that they’re breaking new ground yet again this season, teaming up with Google+ to bring us ‘model cams’ and a Be The Buyer App, so that we can walk in the towering shoes of Cara D or curate our own lookbooks and mood boards.

No longer are high streets the rip-off factories of old, simply reproducing and diluting catwalk trends. Modestly priced brands are beginning to strike out and set the pace, instead of comfortably jogging on behind the big boys. Marks and Spencer’s three year partnership with the British Fashion Council is yet another example of the affordable becoming aspirational; as the two special collections created to celebrate the collaboration promote home-grown talent and reflect British heritage.

High street beauty brands, of course, have been ahead of the game for a while now. Rimmel London is a regular backstage brand, while Max Factor and L’Oreal Paris can be spied on even the most prestigious dressing tables. When high street looks this good, it deserves some time in the limelight. And if you’d rather hide the fact that your budget doesn’t stretch to couture? Keep your trap shut and head held high; the high street has upped its game and will do the talking for you.

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