Closures: The Top Three Reads Of 2021

It appears that the closing of stores permanently is what many like to read

We have never really been too concerned with figures pertaining to our viewership or what people like to read, but it’s interesting to see, as we look back at this past year—still pandemic-stricken, that the top three posts of the year are those about brands and businesses closing here. It is always regrettable and sad that good businesses close down despite their best efforts to stay afloat. The many closures this past year, not just these three mentioned in this post, suggest to us that other than real economic factors, retailers are indeed facing declining shopper numbers. No real study has been conducted to understand why people are no longer shopping at physical stores other than the general belief that most consumers prefer to do it online, as attested by the popularity of Shopee and the rising tide of livestream selling.

At the top of the list, and sitting way above the second and the third, is the closure of Pedder on Scotts in September. The “it’s hard to say goodbye” closing down sale of Pedder on Scotts, after five years operating on the entire second floor of Scotts Square, surprised many. On Pedder at Takashimaya Shopping Centre remains open. Also totally unexpected was the closure of AW Lab. Headquarted in Italy, AW Lab has considerable presence in Europe. On our island, they had four stores. They closed all of them at the end of November last year. The least anticipated permanent shuttering was the closure of Temt. Sitting on the third place of the most read post, the Australian fast-fashion brand seemed to enjoy a heathy fan base, but that was not sufficient to keep them buoyant and alive.

It is hard not to see that many of our shoppers here are attracted to reports of stores that would no longer exist, as if they have been placing wagers on who would go next. Interestingly, our top read last year was about the closure of Topshop (and Topman) here. The subsequent media coverage was about how “fans mourn” the passing of an era. With the pandemic still very real, it does appear that shopping in a physical store would increasingly look like an activity of an age past and forgotten. No one is too concern with the rapid vanishing of real spaces in which you are able to see, touch and feel tangible merchandise (since, as the common refrain goes, “you can get anything online”). We have lost our position as a shopping destination a long time ago. It does not seem we would be reclaiming that status any time soon.

File photos: SOTD

After The Fact

Why does it take a close-down to get consumers lamenting that an era is no more? Or, realising that a brand will be missed?

Today’s edition of Life. Photo by Chin Boh Kay

By Emma Ng

Regret: As in if we knew then? Or, if we could turn back time? Or, we’re sorry? TopShop closed their last physical store for good yesterday after 20 years here. It is rather puzzling to me that in the two decades of the brand’s presence across the island, there was not enough fervour in them to negate the need to bemoan, as reported in the The Straits Times’s Life today, that an era is over (repeated thrice!). We’re now a seething mass of lamentation? (The online, “premium” version of the article even declared in its headline that “fans mourn”!) According to the cover story, devotees “say they will miss the brand for its statement pieces, on-trend celebrity collaborations, petite range and innovative consumer engagement.” That is quite a pile of reasons to keep the brand going, but TopShop was not able to latch on to our spaghetti straps to stay on.

For quite a while, no one really connected Topshop (at its peak, a 10-store chain) with FOMO. I mean, no one, it seemed, feared missing out on anything in TopShop, let alone its bowing out of the local market. But people did not want to be beaten to H&M’s last fall collaboration—with Giambattista Valli (but a Mercury-organised preview did allow tai-tais and their offsprings to beat most). Never mind that those gowns will make even the BFF who knows you well—really well—wonder if you’re getting married. Or, playing Cinderella going to a ball in the nearest istana with real royalty living in it—in Johor Bahru. Despite TopShop’s fading popularity, ST’s Amanda Chai, who wrote the generously-allotted, full-page piece, happily claimed that shoppers “had only fond memories” of the store.

Remembrances, however loving, do not, of course, equate to sales. A fast fashion store may bank on past accolades, but it can’t hope that customers will continue to buy because they can’t forget what the store had churned out in the past

Remembrances, however loving, do not, of course, equate to sales. A fast fashion store may bank on past accolades, but it can’t hope that customers will continue to buy because they can’t forget what the store had churned out in the past. Ms Chai herself could go no further than TopShop’s Knightsbridge store (2010—2015), recalling that it “boasted phone-charging stations and a bespoke personal shopping service”. As we have noted here on SOTD, TopShop’s debut at Wisma Atria in 2000 (they stayed till 2008, and it was here that the ‘Style Advisor’ service that Life noted was first introduced) offered more than just clothes, it had atmosphere, a rare quality in retail then. Inside, I recall, was evocative of the brand’s London flagship on Oxford Street. It was dotted with iMacs (yes, those antiquated triangular-sided PCs) that offered free access to the Internet. There was energy derived from the Brit-retro-cool vibe it projected. This was augmented by the music—nothing ambient about it—and the massive video wall in the rear that, for those of us with no access to MTV, was a definite highlight when shopping there. I will always remember choosing carrot jeans accompanied by Oasis or Arctic Monkeys. And, for sure, Coldplay.

I think many of the shoppers, who made a last-minute attempt to cop whatever it was they were hoping to at TopShop, did so just to partake in a closure that had been predicted to be the norm for fashion retail: let’s go to another closing-down sale. That, and the cheap prices. Weeks later, when Shopee conducts a 10.10 sale after the 9.9, TopShop would sound like a brand from long ago. But shrugging off their physical self does not mean they don’t exists any longer. Google the conflated name and the first result (really an ad) will show up as “We Are Now Online”. A store-less brand won’t be quite the same as one that exists in the off-line sphere. TopShop has as much cultural presence here as the “cami top” it sells. I doubt e-commerce will change that. It would need more than a re-branding strategy for a digital non-native to appeal to those born into a connected world, who are unlikely to miss the brand’s brick-and-mortar self.

Kate Moss X TopShop in 2014. File photo: SOTD

TopShop, in its last years, had not been the crowd-puller that H&M—opened 11 years later— has been. After their (final?) collaboration with Kate Moss in 2014, TopShop (and its brother brand TopMan) seemed unable to go further than young-hipster cool. The Kate Moss “wardrobe” appeared to me to appeal mostly to teens with the understandable desire to be dressed like glamour girls. While other brands with similar aesthetical starting point had moved on to embrace more trending looks, TopShop had not done so likewise; at least not as fervently, or convincingly. By the time of its impending closure, many of those who discovered TopShop via their debut store in Wisma Atria in 2000 have grown up, as I have. The kids today aren’t like the kids of twenty years ago.

Frankly, I remember what Topshop was; I do not register what it has become. In my last visit to TopShop at ION Orchard two CNYs ago, I left with disappointment rather than purchases. The store was not just a mere shadow of its former self, it was a dump of throwaway clothes and forgotten fashion. I wonder if things would have looked less dismal if it had more support as an on-trend brand (rather than purportedly a place for “statement pieces”). I don’t regret that TopShop is closed; I have nothing to lament. I believe in the saying that when one door shuts, another may open. Yet, it’s hard to say if, given the troubles of the brand’s parent company, the Arcadia Group, TopShop is able to re-buff and restore the shine it has lost, or dramatically reinvent itself. I doubt many are hoping.

Top Down

TopShop/TopMan closes in five days. People are queuing to buy. Can fashion labels, as with lovers, only be appreciated when they shall be no more?

The closures of clothing stores on our island tend to show unambiguously that in fashion, we don’t appreciate or desire brands until they exit our retail scene. Or, when they are sold cheaply so that stocks can be cleared/disposed. It was officially announced last week that TopShop/Topman will close its last brick-and-mortar store at VivoCity on Thursday, 17 September, day 261 of an unforgettable 2020. Many observers—including us—already foresaw this doom. We noted that after we were sure that the two-storey ION Orchard store was closed in June. Yet, it didn’t seem to affect those who consider TopShop or co-brand TopMan a favourite or worthy of support. The British brand isn’t considered to be expensive, but we couldn’t keep the business going. We’re only keen on them a week before it will shutter permanently.

This afternoon, there was a long queue—at least 2 metres long (social distancing be damned)—outside TopShop/Topman. Both men and women came to partake in the brand’s final chapter here (although distributor Wing Tai Retail did say that the online operation will remain). Most in the line were young—below 25, and in the company of the like; in twos, threes, fives. VivoCity, as with, say, JEM in Jurong, is considered (or treated as) a suburban mall, never mind that it is neighbour to one of the most expensive real estate clusters in our nation. As such, visitors here are attired in the same fashion as one would see in other heartland shopping malls: T-shirt and shorts, and slippers. Those waiting to get into Topshop/Topman were no different. Could there be more T-shirts and shorts inside to buy?

We asked three women, who looked like they might have spent most of their professional lives in full-service co-working spaces, if they were here because the store was closing down. “Actually, we didn’t know that,” one of them said. “We were walking around, and saw the queue, so join, lah.” What were they hoping to buy? “Anything cheap.” We caught sight of a massive poster at the entrance of the store. It read, “Final sale. Buy 2 Get 1 Free. Limited Time Only.” We continued: You buy only cheap? “Of course, lah!” Where do you mostly go to buy cheap? “We shop online, like Lazada.” It’s cheap on Lazada? “Okay, lah. They usually have discounts. So, quite cheap.”

Most of the mechandise inside the store were marked down—“up to 70%.” We saw that many pieces could be had for S$9, or close to McDonald’s Big Mac Extra Value Meal (S$8.65). Or, about a quarter of the price of one mooncake. The result of last year’s quinquennial Household Expenditure Survey, with calculations from 2017’s data, showed that most people spent less on clothing, compared to food. Some data analysts, however, thought that this might not necessarily mean we were buying fewer clothes—we were just buying cheaper clothes. Or, as witnessed in TopShop/TopMan today, those from stores closing down.

It is, perhaps, understandable why TopShop/TopMan needed to wind up its physical-store operations here. The troubles of the parent company, declining brand identity, and the store’s increasingly irrelevant merchandise aside, the British clothier was also facing competition from stronger players such as Uniqlo and H&M, and catering to consumers who want commodities than keepsakes, rock-bottom cheap than reasonable mid-price. Our un-quenched thirst for clothing that can be bought for less than a meal is seriously posing a threat to not only the survival of foreign fashion brands, but also a deterrent to those seeking to make an entry here.

TopShop/TopMan is the third British fashion brand to close down at the 14-year-old VivoCity. Back in 2011, River Island exited Singapore for good after a mere three years here, even with merchandising that was generally considered “strong”. A few years earlier, Ben Sherman, the “quintessential” menswear clothier, closed their level-one store. Other British labels with standalone outlets to bid farewell to our island that we can remember include French Connection (the label is now available at Robinsons) and Jack Wills. But it isn’t just the British brands that had it hard. American labels, too, didn’t last. Few Gen-Z shoppers now remember that we once had the likes of Gap. Regardless of country of origin, it is clear that garment retail faces a bleak future when courting consumers who only want to buy—and wear—cheap.

Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Is Topshop Really Closed?

The store at ION Orchard is boarded up, including the windows

20-06-21-15-39-07-264_decoTopShop at ION Orchard

What is perhaps more telling is that Topshop is no longer in the store listing of ION Orchard’s website. On the doors of the shop—boarded up in black—a terse message reads, in full caps, “SORRY WE ARE CLOSED” (are they really apologetic if they have to shout at you?). Even the windows are similarly covered. Topshop is entirely sealed, except for one still-lit light box.

The shop-front message could indicate permanent closure. Most retail stores, not yet able to open due to COVID-19 and the Circuit Breaker period, mostly state so and communicate that opening dates would be advised later. Topshop does not.

Staff at the store opposite, Charles and Keith, when asked, said they know nothing of the operational state of their neighbour. Telephone calls placed to the branch at Vivo City went unanswered. A Google search for all existing branches showed that they are “permanently closed”. Further to that description, marked in red, Google wrote, “Topshop is recorded closed at this location”. No announcement is made on distributor of Topshop, Wing Tai Holding’s website. It still lists Topshop as a brand it carries. Back in February, The Business Times reported that Wing Tai’s retail arm retrenched 20 staff in a “restructuring”.

20-06-22-02-08-25-000_decoA very closed TopShop and TopMan at ION Orchard20-06-21-16-14-55-597_decoAn unambiguous notice

Topshop was at a time considered to be one of the best fast fashion labels here. Its shine started to fade in the past years and was considerably dulled since media reports emerged nine months ago that the UK’s Arcadia Group, which owns Topshop (and other high-street brands), had agreed to a “rescue deal” with creditors. The BBC reported, at the time, that the retail empire of Topshop’s main man Philip Green “plunges to huge loss”. Closure of some of the Arcadia Group’s more than a thousand stores in 36 countries, including concessions or franchises, was predicted.

Here, many customers started noticing how lacklustre Topshop had become. One fashion stylist told us that “it looked like they were closing down. The merchandise was very miserable”. For those who remembers Topshop as a “happening” place in 2000, where shoppers had access to free use of computers in the Wisma Atria store and enjoyed the British indie music played non-stop, its closure, if confirmed, truly marks the passing of an era.

Note: Topshop’s SG online store is still operating, but, as the ‘add to bag’ button is unresponsive, appears not to be accepting purchases.

Update (11 Sep 2020, 14:00): Two months after our post, Wing Tai Retail confirmed to the media that all Topshop stores (including TopMan) will be closed. It is understood that the UK brand will be available online to local shoppers thereafter. The last standing store is at VivoCity, but it will shut down permanently on 17 Sep 2020.

Photo: Zhao Xiangji

There Will Be Fewer Zara Stores

Is the announcement of Zara’s impending world-wide closure of 1,200 stores a sign of more to come for fast fashion?


Zara Liat TowersZara at Liat Towers during the Circuit Breaker period 

Zara is downsizing. Ranked 46th last year by Forbes on their World’s Most Valuable Brands listing (highest among fast fashion/high street names), the Spanish label will not be keeping its current number of stores, believed to be 7,400 of them throughout the world. According to news reports, 1,000 to 1,200 of their stores will be shuttered between now and 2022. It is not yet known how many of the ten in Singapore will be affected. Could Zara’s plan be a stark warning of the actions to follow among other fast fashion labels?

Zara opened its first store here in 2002. It was a “cooperation agreement” between parent company Inditex and local retail and distribution firm Royal Clicks, now mostly known as RSH (which began as the more familiar Royal Sporting House), presently owned by the Dubai-based Al Futtaim Group. It is one of the earliest fast fashion brands (only compatriot label Mango was earlier, debuting here in 1995) to tempt consumers with affordable, quick-to-market, trend-driven fashion.

According to a Reuters report, Inditex—also owner of Massimo Dutti and Pull and Bear (and others)—has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Between February and April, the company recorded a net loss of 409 million euros for the same period, compared to last year. In the same time frame a year ago, sales was 5.9 billion euros. It has now dropped to 3.3 billion euros. The losses, Reuters wrote, include those of other fashion labels under the company, not just Zara, the largest of Inditex brands.

Even before the current pandemic, some fast fashion brands have shown to be untenable. A combination of fluctuating economic conditions, global trade tensions, stretched lifespan of fashion items, inevitable rise of wokeness to sustainability and environmental issues, and displacement of apparel by food and travel (now persuasively known as “experiences”) has diminish the once-immediate appeal of fast fashion. As one magazine writer, speaking of the fast fashion customer, told us, “fast to adopt, fast to forget”.

Forever 21Forever 21 at 313@Somerset before the Circuit Breaker kicked in 

It is understandable why retail pundits are now painting a bleak picture of fast fashion. One of the earliest brands to lose consumer favour is Forever 21. In Singapore, they once operated four stores under the retail arm of UAE’s Sharaf Group. It filed for bankruptcy protection in the US in September last year. Analysts cited lost of relevance as one of the reasons behind the brand’s declining popularity. According to local reports, quoting shop staff, Forever 21 won’t close its sole surviving store at 313@Somerset.

British clothier Topshop has not fared too well either. It announced last year that it’ll close all its US stores, a decade after its foray into the States. In Japan, they opened in 2006 and closed all stores in 2015. Its businesses in Australia were shuttered last year. According to The Guardian, the Arcadia Group—owner of Topshop—“could permanently close some of its shops (that also includes Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge).” Here, Topshop, which opened in 2006 and is run by Wing Tai Holdings (usually linked to the Hong Kong brand G2000), made no announcement of closure, but shoppers have noticed how “sad” the stores was beginning to look, even before the start of the Circuit Breaker lockdown.

The world’s second largest clothing firm by sales after Inditex, Hennes & Mauritz, isn’t looking especially rosy either. Back in 2018, Bloomberg reported that H&M was “embarking on one of its biggest store-closure programmes”, with plans to shut 170 stores that year. It added that the company had “struggled to cut inventory”. Reacting to the pandemic, H&M temporarily closed all its stores in Germany—their biggest market for sales—and all 590 in the US, their second largest market. It is not known if there would be permanent closures.


Conversely, Uniqlo, it appears, isn’t scaling down. In Japan, they have, in fact, opened stores—two in Tokyo alone, one in Harajuku and one “global flagship” in Ginza, both this month. All this happening while the launch of their first face mask made of their proprietary Airism fabric is scheduled for this Friday in Japan. It is expected to sell out. Uniqlo, opened here in 2009 and whose parent company Fast Retailing is the third largest fashion company in global sales after H&M, has been especially active on social media and, through their PR agency, regularly sending members of the media updates on new merchandise, such as the recent Billie Eilish by Takashi Murakami UT collection.

It’s hard to say if our appetite for Zara and the rest will return when the Circuit Breaker is eventually lifted, or when what is known as Phase 2 kicks in. Even before COVID-19, some of the fast fashion brands did not appear to maintain especially commendable shop keeping and visual merchandising. At H&M’s flagship on Grange Road, just before the Lunar New Year, the store looked deplorably in need of revitalising, with racks of tired merchandise in a setting that was far from what was becoming increasingly vital to brick-and-mortar retail: excitement.

Similarly, at Topshop in ION Orchard, the store has more in common, visually, with a clearance outlet than one that, in its heyday, had a street-facing flagship in the now-defunct Knightsbridge shopping centre (the Apple store today), where the Kate Moss X Topshop collection was launched in 2010. Since the closure in 2015 of what was touted as “Asia’s largest Topshop”, an impressive three-storey space spread out over 11,500 square feet (1,068 square metres), the brand has whittled in physical presence and barely registers among shoppers who are responding to the swankier Zara and the more-fun Uniqlo.

Going forward, it is hard to know which direction fast fashion will take or if it would continue to appeal when consumers are taking note of the staggering surfeit of clothing they own and, at the same time, discard. Lockdown has allowed us to ponder: Do we need clothes to express ourselves when there’s social media? Sure, influencers still use clothes as content on the likes of Instagram, but how many actually buy their own threads? Is fast fashion still an appealing retail concept and would it shine if retailers operate primarily online? Is ‘fast’ speeding inexorably towards a certain end? As with most quagmires, it is complicated.

Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Adidas Goes For The Top But Is It The Apex Of Design?

Adidas X Topshop 2015Adidas is no stranger to collaborations. What they can’t do better, they pass to others. What needs re-imagining, they tap the minds of those outside the company. This can be seen as far back as 2001 in one of their earliest collaborations: the pairing with Japanese masuta of the avant-garde Yohji Yamamoto. Mr Yamamoto designed only a few styles of sports shoes then, but they sure did generate enough interest for Adidas to eventually advance the Y3 line. As Mr Yamamoto told Interview in 2011, “we created something that did not exist before and completely projected into the future”.

Fast forward to the future or, specifically, the present. When it comes to collaborations, Adidas is one of the most prolific among sportswear brands. In just the first half of this year, they have launched enough successful design/brand pairings to make those by H&M seem lame. They’ve worked with popular singers, in-the-news designers, and hip retailers, yet there’s more to come. According to an Adidas Group press release, the Three Stripes enjoyed a 17% swell in profits of €4.1 billion (SGD6.1 bil) in the first quarter, no doubt a direct result from pairing with Kanye West and other high-profile stars. Whether it’s the hyped-to-death launch of Yeezy Boost with the indomitable Mr West, the retro-ghetto-fabulous bombast of Run DMC,  the chromatic excess of the Superstar re-coloured by Pharrell Williams, or the comic-cute, street-art-bent jumble of Rita “I’m-a-designer-now” Ora, co-creating has strengthen the Adidas branding rather than dilute it, no matter if some day consumers may forget the label’s association with sports.

So, who would Adidas not collaborate with? At the moment, no one, it would seem. Collab fatigue is not on their mind as Adidas takes Topshop by the hand in the latest twosome-to-create. This is not the first time Adidas, specifically adidas Originals (spelled with a lower ‘a’ and a capital ‘o’, presumably to underscore originality), has worked with Britain’s most recognisable fast fashion store. Last year, they came up with a 20-piece collection to cash in on the sports-meets-fashion craze. While that debut appeared appealing (its street-strong aesthetic not lost on Alexander Wang followers), the current 7-piece capsule collection is a bit of a puzzler: does Adidas need Topshop to create something so regular, prosaic even?

Adidas X Topshop 2015 + 2014Topshop X adidas Originals 2015 (left) vs 2014 (right). Photos: adidas Originals

There’s the “reworked” Superstar jacket, a pair of brief running shorts, a T-shirt, a Trefoil-emblazoned sweatshirt, and two pairs of re-imagined Superstar sneakers. All no doubt smart-looking items, but this time, the street style aesthetic is not immediately obvious. In fact, it seems Topshop has wholeheartedly embraced the sports heritage of Adidas rather than push for a high-street sensibility. Not necessarily a bad idea, but couldn’t Adidas produce these garments and shoes themselves? What has Topshop brought to the table, or, rather, the clothes?

The payoff for either side is not immediately discernible, but we can take a guess at what’s likely: Adidas gets to tap into Topshop’s distribution channel and reach a wider audience, particularly the younger set that has ditched the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch, yet not quite a big fan of full-on sports labels. For Topshop, they get a sportswear line (unlike H&M, they do not have dedicated performance wear) and the association with a brand that’s very much in the news, thanks to loquacious singers with CVs that go beyond music-making. This coming together of forces leveraged both brands. However, when they should have created unique products, this season, Adidas and Topshop output merchandise that’s not exceptionally compelling or innovative. Not one of the seven pieces is anything that Adidas couldn’t do themselves—no celebrity cachet, no designer value.

It is understandable that this collaboration isn’t for fans of the Yeezy or clueless teenage girls with I will Never Let You Down on their Spotify playlist or regular, ardent shoppers at London Skateboard. This is really for fast fashion consumers who, seized by a moment, may just be interested in a T-shirt with an outsized Adidas logo. As a tree might tell you, spread your branches and you really get more sunshine.

Topshop X adidas Originals is available at TopShop, Ion Orchard and Jem

Close Look: The Kate Moss Wardrobe Via TopShop

Kate Moss X TopShop 2014

Kate Moss is a long-time It Girl, and her It Style is as longstanding as her It Self. By popular definition, the It Girl is usually not It for long: her It-ness has appeal because it is transient and quick to pass. While, to be fair, Ms Moss has achieved full-fledged celebrity, she has never quite shaken off her It bearing. She does all the It things you can’t do, hangs out with all the It people you can’t know, and looks good in all the It clothes you can’t have. But because she appears so fabulously in them, you’d want even if you can’t have.

Ms Moss knows it. So does Topshop. That’s why they’re at it again. The latest collaboration between model and retailer is, after a hiatus of four years, their 15th. Started in 2007, the limited-edition line has always been a serious, not necessarily humour- or wit-infused, take on what Ms Moss likes to wear. And the present issue is no different. If you’re a fan and have been buying Kate Moss X Topshop, you’d have this nagging feeling that you already have some of what they’re telling you are new.

It requires no reminding that you’re buying into the aesthetic of an icon, and not one that has been inconsistent with her look. From the moment Ms Moss has been nailed as a fashionable woman with a unique personal style, she has gone from cool vintage to neo-hippy to cool vintage to neo-hippy, all the while playing the part as the embodiment of the spirit of London. In the same year she started working with Topshop, Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

TopShop @ KnightsbridgeTopshop’s window at Knightsbridge on Orchard Road

The Kate Moss influence is major yet it is different from those typically seen in the fashion world because what she proposes through her body is not the same as what a designer recommends on a catwalk. In fact, oftentimes, what she wears is not a reflection of what is shown on the runways of the world. They are free from the fetters of trends. Still, they represent forms of self-expression and dress that are socially acceptable and desirable, so much so that she could, whether consciously or not, assert widespread influence. What was at first mass curiosity became, in a matter of a few years since the start of her modelling career, individual dream. This sway over the public’s fashion consciousness is also remarkable because Ms Moss does not, even with a clothing line bearing her name, play an institutional role, and thus does not control the direction of fashion the way a brand such as Louis Vuitton can.

The Kate Moss X Topshop’s early pieces were “inspired” by her own style. The current collection is—as she told The Guardian—a “wardrobe biography”. First mirroring herself, and then appropriating her actual closet, it is likely she has no intention to commandeer the course of fashion, even less so when she is no designer herself (for Topshop, she worked with creative director Kate Phelan and stylist friend Katy England), and is not, fashion-wise, forward-looking. Ms Moss has always depended on the past, mining vintage and vintage-looking styles with a fervour matched by her penchant for partying with and dating rock stars. She often looked like a Seventies disco habitué, and would not be out of place if Studio 54 were still alive.

Kate through the yearsKate Moss wearing a sequinned gown at her 30th birthday party in 2004 ; in her own collection for Topshop in 2007; in vintage dress and fur coat, 2010

If this was, instead, the 18th Century, Kate Moss may well have been a courtesan. Not quite Madame du Barry perhaps, but still a sensation, and the paragon of ostentatious fashion, indiscreet consumption, and irresistible sexiness (minus Madame du Barry’s made-up noble descent!). She would have attracted the people around her with eye-catching glamour, uniting the common with the classy, and the resultant effects, for her fans, would be utterly delightful. In place of sequins were laces; instead of fringes were ribbons; and rather than leather, certainly ermine. Dresses with studs and beading would have their versions brocaded with gold and bedecked in jewels. Her fondness for slip-dresses and pyjama dressing would not have been at odds with the popularity of the déshabillé, a scandalous style that was “everything thrown on with a loose careless air” , as described in The Guardian, September 1713.

Unlike past figures, who stirred only a small coterie, Ms Moss impresses a much larger audience, a global one. So much of what women wear today, at work and at play, can be traced to her, even when so many of these women are not likely able to do the tracing themselves. The cut-off denim shorts, for example, has become so visible in both the casual and the dressy wardrobe—and worn even in winter—that not many women know or remember that it was Kate Moss who made this tiniest and torn pair of shorts a fashion staple.

What is the Kate Moss wardrobe like? Without the face of the personality collared to the products, can the clothes hold up to scrutiny? And what does the voyeur-shopper glean from a peak into her wardrobe?

Yellow vintage dressA vintage asymmetric yellow dress Kate Moss wore in 2003 and a version in the current Topshop collection

It is really less about fashion than one woman’s personal taste, and Topshop has shrewdly catered to celebrity obsession and voyeuristic proclivity by dishing up clothes that would be considered gaudy if they were not “all inspired by Kate’s own wardrobe”. In this wardrobe, there are “festival-inspired pieces” and “scene-stealing” party clothes, as Topshop describes them, and through discovering “Balearic dressing” (the beat rather than the islands?), “cocktail hour”, “pyjama dressing”, and “tailoring noir”—the four themes of the collection, you may build your life around a time when the sun does not shine.

Looking at the line, you wonder whence came Ms Moss’s love for embroidered tunics, fringed jackets, shimmy shifts, floaty high-waisted dresses, satin playsuits, and the answer eludes you. Up close, these are clearly clothes that suggest places to go to for some hedonistic nocturnal fun. As such, subtlety has no place in the collection just as mundane does not characterise Ms Moss’s life. A mere pair of shorts not more than eight-inches long (typically very short, a la Kate Moss) has lacing in place of zip at the crotch, and studs, eyelets, and bugle beads, plus, at the hem, blanket stitch!

These are not upmarket clothes, and they don’t have to be since what she wears does not have to look posh and polished (she’s known to have made designer clothes grungy!), which is a reason why the Topshop collection works. As her style projects youthfulness, the pieces will entice the young, and sell well. But does forty-year-old Kate Moss come with built-in obsolescence? Only time will tell.

Kate Moss X Topshop is currently available at the Knightbridge store on Orchard Road