image captionThe Topshop brand will endure but all of the shops – including the 90,000 sq ft flagship store on Oxford Street – will not reopen when lockdown ends
The Topshop at 214 Oxford Street was a retail sensation when it opened in 1994. Thrillingly, to the many thousands of young women who flocked there, it was more than a location for the sale of clothes.
The three-storey building had its own nail bar and food stalls and DJs pumping out dance music from a booth, ramping up the atmosphere.
It’s not so long ago that huge crowds would throng to the London landmark to witness the launch of new ranges from A-list stars like Beyoncé and Kate Moss.
It would have been hard to imagine back then that this Topshop would close for good in 2021. But close for good it has. The BBC has spoken to some to some shoppers about the loss of the store that helped define their childhoods.
‘It felt I’d been transported to another world’
image captionNicole Petty says the Oxford Street store “will forever hold a nostalgic place in my heart”
Nicole Petty says the store’s closure signifies the end of an era for generations of young women.
“To visit the flagship store, on none other than Oxford Street, was a sure nod to style-queen status in my eyes as a teenager,” she recalls.
“Its closure is a bit of a shock. The curtain has closed on an era that lots of girls were so fond of.”
As someone who came of age in the 2010s in south Wales, Topshop’s flagship store was a dream destination for Nicole as a teenager.
image captionThe store, which boasted a DJ booth, nail bar and food stalls, was a retail sensation when it first opened
The digital marketing manager recalls begging her mum to visit the store every December for their traditional Christmas shopping trip.
“Visiting the Oxford Street flagship has always been an experience in itself,” the 27-year-old says. “From the nightclub vibes to the in-store nail bar, the store always felt as though I had been transported to another world.
“For me, living in Cardiff meant that visiting London was such a treat. My fondest memory of the store dates back to 2010 when three of my friends and I took a weekend trip to the capital.
“As curious 16-year-olds, achieving the ‘Topshop look’ was the ultimate #stylegoals.”
Nicole would document her shopping trips by posting photographs on MySpace – which for a time in the noughties was the world’s most popular social network.
image captionTaking pictures in Topshop’s changing rooms was customary for Nicole and her friends
“Getting all dressed up with my friends in the changing rooms was the height of fun back then,” she says.
“From changing-room selfies to photo-booth shoots, the Oxford Street flagship will forever hold a nostalgic place in my heart for the innocence of youth.”
‘It’s the end of an era for us all’
image captionKatie Impey says Topshop’s maternity range was a “lifeline” for a young mum like her
London fashion stylist Katie Impey said Oxford Street’s Topshop held a “Mecca-like status” for a generation of teens, with fashion, makeup and music all under one roof.
“My earliest memories of teenage independence are of pilgrimages to Oxford Street to spend the day at their flagship store, and I mean a whole day – if you ever queued for the fitting room on a Saturday in the early noughties you’ll understand why,” she says.
“In my early 20s, my first proper job was just a few blocks away on Oxford Street.
“I’ll never forget the buzz around the Kate Moss collection… and that red dress she wore in the window for the launch. Looking back, it was a real iconic moment in time.”
image captionThe launch of a new Kate Moss Topshop collection would always draw large crowds to the store
Katie, who had her first child in her mid-20s, says Topshop’s maternity range “became a lifeline for a relatively young mum to be [who was] terrified at the prospect of losing herself.
“I still have a pair of the iconic Baxter jeans with a pregnancy-friendly elasticated waist. They’ve seen me through three pregnancies over the last 10 years.”
When Katie was asked to work with Topshop as her fashion career progressed, her 15-year-old self “did a little dance”, she says.
“There was even a time when an invite to Topshop’s London Fashion Week show was the hottest ticket in town. The front row was a who’s who of coolest of the cool,” she says.
“But times change. Us original Topshop girls have all grown up and moved to the suburbs, and the new generation of teens seem to live most of their lives virtually.
“I can’t help but wonder if the closing of Topshop is the end of an era for us all.”
‘What made it special was the whole experience’
image captionMared Parry says her “heart breaks” for the company’s employees
Mared Parry, 24, would travel to Oxford Street from Wales as a youngster.
“I remember the first time I ever went to the ‘Big London Topshop’ – we’d come down from north Wales on a school trip to watch some West End shows, and shopping on Oxford Street was also on the itinerary,” she says.
“Being from a valley so rural, it had no mobile phone reception, wi-fi so slow it might as well be powered by potatoes and is an hour-long drive from the nearest McDonald’s. You can imagine my face when I stepped into a shop that had multiple other shops inside it.
“A clothes shop that has DJ decks and a hair salon? And does piercings? And sells cupcakes? Incredible.”
Mared has since moved to London and often visited the shop, each time remembering the little girl who stood in awe at its magnitude almost a decade ago.
“I am gutted it’s shutting down. Topshop is a brand I’ve loved for years and what made it special was the whole experience of going into the store, trying things on, the free personal styling service,” she says.
“It’ll all be gone. My heart breaks for the company’s employees. It’s so unfair.”
‘There was so much atmosphere’
image captionEssie Okoro says a trip to 214 Oxford Street was a “rite of passage”
Essie Okoro, who lives in Charlton, south-east London, worked at the Oxford Street Topshop while at university in the early noughties.
She recalls it being “great fun” and even crossed paths with stars like Beyoncé, Kate Moss and Rihanna when they visited the store.
“It was just the place to be. I would brag about working there and people would be amazed. The music was great – there was so much atmosphere,” she says.
“It was just a rite of passage for young girls at the time and I made so many good friends, that I still speak to now, while working there.
“I will feel very disheartened to see Topshop [will have] vanished from Oxford Street when we get out of lockdown.
“I knew that smaller High Street brands were struggling, but if Topshop can’t make it on Oxford Street – it sends a worrying message to the rest of the High Street.
“Oxford Street is not Oxford Street without the big Topshop on the corner.”
‘I had a cry in the changing rooms’
image captionShona Duthie says she will “seriously miss” the store
Oxford Street’s Topshop helped Aberdeen-born Shona Duthie get over a bad break-up.
“It may sound incredibly sad or slightly weird but every week I would head to Oxford Street for some comfort, and not necessarily buy anything, but just to take 30 minutes for myself to help me through it,” the 29-year-old says.
“When [my partner and I] had finally gone our separate ways, I had a wee cry in the changing rooms.
“I had done the usual girl thing of changing my hair and getting rid of a huge load off my shoulders,” she says.
“They were tears of relief more than being sad ones and yes, I did buy those jeans I was trying on!
“I will seriously miss this site as being Topshop and Miss Selfridge – maybe not happy memories all round, but certainly comforting ones.”
‘This store will be missed by so many’
image captionBeyoncé launched her Ivy Park collection at Topshop in 2016
Chloe Dawson, 27, from Balham in south London, says the store on 214 Oxford Street played a huge role in her life – eventually inspiring her to pursue a career in fashion.
“As a teenager, I was in absolute awe at the size of the place, the glitzy clothes and the trendy girls who riffled through the rails,” she says.
“Most importantly though, the shop was my gateway to the industry I so longed to be part of.”
It was while in Topshop’s changing rooms, surrounded by her best friends, that Chloe decided she wanted to work in fashion – which she now does.
“I feel this store will be missed by so many young girls,” she says. “It really was the best place to be.”