A word with: Jacqui Markham

In the lead-up to the opening of New Zealand’s flagship Topshop Topman store in Auckland tomorrow, we chat to the brand’s newly appointed global design director, Jacqui Markham. Markham is no stranger to the High Street label, having previously worked there for 14 years before shifting over to ASOS to work as womenswear design director for the past two years. She tells us about her impressions of Kiwi style, key trends to look out for next season and cool collaborations she’s looking forward to.


What drew you back Topshop?

I really missed physical stores. I’m an advocate of having two sides of the coin and they both complement each other. But I do think there’s something that can’t beat that physical environment. Especially at the start of a season, when you can walk into a store and think “Oh, this is what everyone’s been working really hard on.”

Obviously you don’t get that sense with the online proposition. When everything’s intangible, it’s just a different kind of connection I suppose. But from a design point of view, I want to see the results of what we’ve been doing.

What does your role entail?

My role is to lead the 45-strong design team on Topshop to set the trends, to keep pushing fashion and newness through the business on a global scale.

How do you work alongside creative director Kate Phelan (contributing editor at Vogue)?

Really closely. We’ve worked together for a long time and I’ve got total respect for Kate. I very much deal with actual pieces and the tangible product if you like and the design side of it. Kate’s world is the newest girl, the newest stylist, the newest photographer and she’s incredible at it. Obviously we work really closely together because it’s all part of the same proposition. She’s a joy to work with.

What do you think of the way New Zealanders dress?

What struck me is people do seem really laid back and quite chilled out. They obviously seem really into fashion because there’s this great buzz about with the Topshop Topman opening. It’s contagious. There seems to be a genuine love for the brand and excitement that we’re here.

I do think this kind of story [points], which is called Highline, this is what I see girls on the street wearing. It’s that quite effortless tailoring, not trying too hard with a little bit of a Scandi feel. Lots of people have said that traditionally New Zealanders go for black and white. Quite simple pieces but quite effortless.

topshop-article-picThe Topshop/Topman store at 203 Queen Street. Image: Showroom 22

What sets Topshop apart?

We do try and create this kind of non-conventional approach. When I joined 16 years ago, what struck me as a designer was this feeling that anything was possible. And so it was very much that we didn’t want to be put in a box, like “You’re a High Street brand and this is how High Street brands operate, and then you have the luxury brands and that’s how they do it.”

It was very much from the beginning this concerted effort that actually we’re not going to sit in either camp, we’re going to kind of go between the two and do things a little bit differently. To me that’s the thing that marks us out and it’s what makes it a really, really amazing brand to work for. There’s a feeling that you can do things a little bit differently and you don’t have to conform to what’s expected or the codes of conduct that you’re supposed to conform to as a High Street brand.

What are the key trends you’re focusing on for next season?

Next season the ’70s is such a huge influence on womenswear in general. I think it will kind of touch every element; all trends will almost be given a kind of ’70s gloss, even on the simpler shapes. It might be in colour palettes, it might be bottle greens and rust but there will be a ’70s element touching everything.

What collaborations are you most excited to work on?

There’s a lot! Obviously the Beyoncé sports collaboration is really exciting, and that launches next year. We’ve got the adidas Originals and also the Kendall and Kylie range – not a collaboration as such but we’ll be partnering with them to sell their range in stores which is really exciting. There are lots of high profile projects coming through. And that’s what makes it really fun.

There’s all these initiatives, and they can be either really big names or emerging talent that we’ve always sponsored through initiatives like New Gen. There’s always lots of irons in the fire, as they say.

The Topshop Topman store opens at 10am on Thursday, March 12. Check out the schedule for the opening weekend events.