Fashion Star: Topshop's Kate Phelan

Meet Topshop's new creative director, the Tilda Swinton of stylists

Photo Courtesy of The Hudson’s Bay Company

Kate Phelan is the Tilda Swinton of stylists: leading-edge, starkly elegant and defiantly modern. For eighteen years, she worked at British Vogue as fashion co-director, where her signature brand of minimalism-meets-English-heritage has inspired countless readers. During her stop in Toronto this week to launch our first freestanding store, we spoke with the woman responsible for shaping Topshop’s ever-enviable London look.

Q: Why do you think that Topshop is such a British success story?

A: “London has always been a hot-bed of talent, especially in the fashion industry. So there’s an appetite for fashion. I think that every girl aspires to have her own style, to find her ‘look’— it’s what we all do. You find your look and then you spend the rest of your life veering around that and sort of complementing it.”

Q: Would you say the Topshop collections evolve almost like a personal wardrobe?
A: “Exactly. My clothes last a long time in my wardrobe so I’m always looking for something slightly newer to bring in. That’s what I think Topshop can do very successfully. Not only is it driving fashion into the new ideas, but there are always those pieces that have a longer life. For instance, this season we’re doing skinny trousers based on a block from a school uniform to get that shrunken shape. The fit is so good. We also have lovely dresses from the new collection Dress-Up.”

Q: Who would be your dream designer collaboration for Topshop?
A: “We are collaborating with Mary Katrantzou – she’s somebody who I really believe in. We’ve created a ten-piece collection, which will be coming [to Canada] in January. Then there are our other collaborations with Simone Rocha and Michael Van Der Ham—the dresses he has done are amazing!”

Q: Topshop sponsors a growing number of young designers to show at London Fashion Week. Who is currently on your radar?
A: “There are few names at the moment that are really exciting. You know, we’ve got J.W Anderson – I think he’s really a hot kid. I think he’s going to absolutely be one to watch.”

Q: You’re signature minimalist styling has been compared to where Phoebe Philo has taken Céline—very pared down. How do you plan to merge this with Topshop’s eclectic look?
A: “Within Topshop, I have all of my must-haves. I can find all of my personality in here clearly, which is a thrill. Amongst all of this, can hone in and really find the exact pieces that do the job they need to do. Once a stylist, always a stylist.”