Still Taking in Topshop

By

Published April 6, 2009

Many New York women pride themselves on the bravery they display while shopping. Indeed, the day H&M’s first US store opened—a mere 7th grader, I fought hard and nabbed a perfect, pink, poodle skirt. I’ve elbowed my way to cashmere victory at the Barney’s Warehouse sale (no matter that the jealous victim of my flailing limb was my own mother.) I’ve even witnessed a woman beat another woman with a wedge-heeled boot at Sigerson Morrison’s end-of-season blowout. The public opening of Topshop’s first US outpost on April 2 was one such blight on our record. (LEFT: THE LINE. ALL PHOTOS BY LENA DUNHAM)

Billboards have heralded the opening of the Soho location for nearly a year. Topshop had a street team working Soho all week, preparing passersby with free tote bags, gift cards, and glossy lookbooks. The ploy worked: I heard eye-witnesses report that groups of well-shod teens camping at Broadway and Grand on Wednesday evening. Turns out that wasn’t exactly right, but when I arrived at 12:30 PM on Thursday the line stretched around the block. Twice. Slouching people in slouchy boots seemed prepared to wait as long as necessary, conjuring images of a Depression-era breadline.

Backup came in the form of two friends: Kristin, a Texan on her first visit to New York, walked a quarter-mile to the end of the queue and compared the phenomenon to sorcery: “I’ve never seen anything like this, since the last Harry Potter book came out.” But these weren’t tweens in velvet capes-these were fully grown fans of imported discount fashion, many of whom who looked more than a little bored. Another friend, Audrey, noted the crowd’s collective style statement, “furious texting and blazers,” a sort of frenetic blasé. The hordes were collectively underwhelmed by the cute guys in straw hats moving up and down the line, offering Topshop branded bottled water and baked goods.

Nearby, an NYU student named Victoria was spending her 22nd birthday on Crosby Street, sporting a pair of studded moccasin boots and waiting for the line to proceed. The epic wait seemed less like a gift and more like a birthday nightmare, but, “This has been my plan for months,” she said. “I was hoping it wouldn’t be [this crowded] but I’m not planning on getting into any fights. It’s sunny out, so I’ll just wait.”

Juliet, a blonde waif from Switzerland, had parked herself nearly an hour before, boyfriend waiting patiently by her side. We were very impressed with this gesture of love and commitment, but five minutes later we caught him making a beeline for the subway.

Then, a rare sighting: a pair of obviously heterosexual gentleman, no girlfriends in sight, waiting patiently on Grand street. Cole and Dennis both had the day off from work and had arrived just before 11 AM to make fashion history. Sampling a free cookie, Cole seemed at peace, albeit perplexed, by the hysteria: “I saw Kate Moss nearly raped by paparazzi when she arrived. I don’t really get the appeal.”