Thursday, 1 April 2010

And this is why I love Topshop...

It's another one about age and fashion...

I'm a bit put out today, as I've discovered I'm not allowed to shop in GAP. Well, not, not allowed, I don't think they have sensors on the door or anything, but I'm undesirable: their target market is 18-25.

Now, I must confess, I do not, and have never owned an item of clothing from GAP. I've always found them overpriced and incredibly dull - I know they sell themselves on basics, but chinos and white t-shirts, really? That keeps them a market force? Also they have those horrible "greeter" people. Even when they just say "good morning" they're annoying. They don't really care whether or not I have a good morning and I, frankly, do not care whether they live or die - do not involve me in your web of lies!

I couldn't shop there if I wanted to anyway, given that they don't stock any size even close to small. I went in once, years ago (when I was still a valued potential customer) after hearing that they stocked a mystical new size, some "size 0" (as I say, this was years ago, before the media hysteria started in earnest). I approached a shop assistant, and she told me that while they did stock this new size 0, she wouldn't recommend it for me as she was wearing size 0 jeans from their new range, and she usually wore a UK 14. Oh, and their "Tall" jeans only came in standard 31" length - epic fail. And thus concludes my most successful ever visit to GAP.

So, while GAP's restrictive age policy has little effect on my life, this standard of "18-25" does. I hate arbitrary markers. You often hear the words "young people" and "18-25" bandied about in relation to fashion. Which is ridiculous, because I have never met anyone who on the morning of their 26th birthday awoke, burned all their clothing, went to the corner shop (naked, presumably) to buy one of those cheap lifestyle magazines that makes all it's money through adverts for mail order clothes companies aimed squarely at people who have given up not only on fashion but on life, called the number of the first one and said: "Send me a consignment of your finest elasticated waist jeans! And a couple of those cardigans with pearl-effect buttons that come in such exciting colours as "wheat" and "olive"! Ooh, and a plastic head scarf, I hear it's going to rain this week and the moisture plays havoc with my perm." Like I said, arbitrary markers - pointless.

I don't know anyone my age who doesn't shop in young fashion chains like New Look, Miss Selfridge etc because, well, why wouldn't we? We're young women who are interested in fashion. Truth is, I don't even understand where it is we're *supposed* to shop. If the assumption were just that we're more likely to be working and can afford better quality than so-called "throwaway fashion" it would be fine, but none of the "older but not old" type shops I can think of fit the bill; Oasis and Warehouse are expensive and plain, Zara is 90% boring office wear (I refuse to subscribe to the concept of office wear, despite working in an office. I wore my favourite grey dress to work yesterday - my friends will know that my favourite grey dress is legendary in its beauty, and its short, tight, straplessness - albeit with thick black tights and a jumper, that was my concession towards respectability. No one's complained yet.) and Dorothy Perkins manages to walk a fascinating tightrope between "designed by and for your auntie" and "my Cod, I'd look really tarty in that". Interestingly, if the Fail is right - remember, I said if - Zara's target age range is 20-28, so I have two years left in which to shop in a chain I have so far dismissed as far too old for me. Hmmm.

Largely none of this affects me because I prefer slightly mad independent clothes shops or vintage (sadly, I do not own any vintage, but still I prefer it) but I have to admit, I have a bit of a thing for Topshop. I do not know how they have managed to hang onto their reputation as being really cheap - I do not know anyone, I don't think, who considers £45 for a plain pair of jeans especially cheap - but cod, their clothes are *fun*!

I was reluctant to research their target market, because of all the fashion chains, Topshop has the worst reputation in terms of being labelled "teenage". Hence the manufactured outrage in some sections of the right wing press when Kate Moss launched her range there, because she's supposedly such a bad influence on the "impressionable young teens who make up its clientele". Plus, I read a piece in the Observer not long ago about how going into Topshop if you're over 25 is apparently "daunting" because everyone is "too young, too thin or too trendy". Nice stereotyping there - by that logic if you're over 25 you are also old, fat and unfashionable. Generalise much, fashion writer?

So, leaving aside the fact that I've just felt moved to write a piece about ageism and I'm only in my fucking twenties, I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least, when I unearthed this recent quote from Topshop's creative directer: "Our target market is women aged 15-30, but internally (I don't understand what they mean by 'internally', but meh) our target is women of any age and any income who love fashion."

I knew there was a reason why I loved Topshop :)

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