If I’m ever idling in town (and that’s all I’m ever doing in town) part of my ritual is to pop into Topshop. It’s not that I’ll buy anything or even be entertaining the idea, I’m just there to take a look; to check in to that special universe. I don’t visit any other shop like this but Topshop is somewhat unique. Other high street shops don’t make such a good fist of aping catwalk trends. In recent years Topshop has also led the way in bringing an indie sort of style- edgy-rock chick-nostalgic-girly- into the mainstream. There aren’t many other stores that manage to make mass produced clothing seem so iconic.
I may go to Topshop more often than I go to mass but I do not worship blindly. There are lots of things about it that I do not like. Over the years I’ve come to detest the attitude of indifference and superior cool it seems to celebrate and cultivate. The difference between euro and sterling prices is ridiculous. These are fairly petty misgivings though, what bothers me most is that this shop which holds itself out as a leader in quality on the high street, which attaches itself to cool causes and plasters liberal slogans across its t shirts and bags, is that it systematically violates human rights in the manufacture of its products. I’ve known this for a couple of years and while it made me angry I didn’t stop making my little pilgrimages and occasionally even indulging in a purchase. I mean I would still tell the odd person how evil i thought Phillip Green was, raking in billions while expecting those who made him rich to live in appalling conditions, but I didn’t do a tap to change it. Until today when I read this article http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mark-donne/topshop-phillip-green_b_1191380.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false and I thought about a little piece of wisdom I heard on Frasier (where I learn all of my life lessons really) – if you aren’t willing to get involved then you can’t complain when you don’t like the way things are. So I decided to raise a bit of awareness among folks on facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/145157558932604/ and suggest a boycott. After all Topshop can’t keep doing what it’s doing without customers so we have the power to change things. It shouldn’t be too much of a hardship for students either since the place is so overpriced anyway.
I realise that Topshop is not the only major retailer guilty of unethical trading practices. Why not boycott them all you might ask. Well to begin with financial realities mean I can’t always take the moral high ground on these things, but at least shops like Primark which have similarly poor standards don’t hold themselves out as being a superior class of shop. Topshop sneers at cheaper competitors, it charges 3 times the price for clothes that are supposed to be of better quality and yet they are made using the same cruel and cheap practices. A large number of high street chains have opted to join the Ethical Trading Initiative (for a list of members see http://www.ethicaltrade.org/about-eti/our-members), while some might see this as a cynical PR move membership means that the ETI will investigate these companies in order to ensure certain standards or met and shows a commitment to making at least some improvement to their production policies. Topshop has not joined the ETI and shows no inclination to do so. I think a blanket boycott of the high street is unrealistic but targeting one of the biggest and most influential culprits could really make a difference. If anybody at all happens to be reading please consider giving up the luxurious experience and fabulous fit and going elsewhere for a while. Let’s see if Topshop will listen when we vote with our feet.