December 17, 2012

Topman design and Development Director Gordon Richardson has, until now, never in his life used the word “awesome.” But that’s the best way he can think to describe the recent success of Topman, the High Street retailer he was hired to resurrect from obsolescence roughly 12 years ago. Three years into the job, he started collaborating with emerging designers. “One of our major coups, at the time, was Kim Jones,” Richardson says from his office within the London headquarters of Arcadia Group, Topman’s monolithic umbrella company. They’ve since boosted the careers of countless fashion upstarts, including New York designers Patrik Ervell, Phillip Lim, Richard Chai, and now James Long.

In November, over mugs of hot cider at the Boiler House in London’s historic Old Truman Brewery, Topman and Long launched an eight-piece knitwear collection—deconstructed Aran sweaters, ribbed crew necks, and patchwork cardigans—which Richardson says was “all about mixing yarns and textures, blowing it all out of proportion, and then throwing color in.” Each English-made item is available online at Topman.com and at the brand’s flagship stores worldwide.

Their next collaboration is already in the works, and will coincide with the latest American Topman store opening, likely in February, at The Grove in Los Angeles. Details are scant but Richardson says, “It’s easy for a brand to just buy a top designer collaboration, but I think that in order to have any credibility among your customer base, it has to resonate. Even though they may look at it and say, ‘That’s sort of odd,’ I’d prefer that to, ‘Oh, they’re just cashing in.’” Awesome, indeed.

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