Harrods vs Top Shop

May 23, 2010


Harrods was an interesting experience to say the least.  It was a London must, but I definently felt out of place.  From the instant I walked in I knew I would not be purchasing everything.  It was like the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of fashion….except everything wasn’t free.  In the sense of architecture Harrods is extremely beautiful.  I would say it is the nicest place I will ever shop at.

From an ethnography standpoint it was fairly obvious to tell who the tourists were and who were the actual customers.  The tourists naturally had their cameras out and deer in the head lights look on their face.  The areas I visited in Harrods were the jewelry and the womens clothing.  Mostly women shoppers with the occasional sugar daddy that looked as though he owned a yacht or at least a 15 million dollar mansion in Notting Hill.

I would say 80% of the women that looked as though they were looking to purchase something were of Middle Eastern decent and wore a hijab.   A hijab is the head covering Muslim women wear to maintain modesty as instructed by the Qur’an. Below is a passage explaining the reasoning.

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimar over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to […] (Qur’an 24:31)

These women were absolutely beautiful.  These women were rockstars at putting on makeup, had designer everything and looked like they belonged in Harrods.  They all had high heels on and lots of jewelry.  Purchases I would also make if I had an disposable income.  Extreme confidence was evident.  Harrods slightly scared me.  It was out of my league.

We walked up to a jewelry counter just to drool at the lovely pieces.  Instantly we were helped by a kind British man who asked how we were doing.  Naturally I said fine thank you, were just browsing like I always do when a salesman approaches me.  In return he offered to show me the sale pieces…which were still out of my league.  I was wearing dress pants and a nice top from express.  An outfit I would wear out to dinner with my family or to church…and it must have screamed I’m broke.  Even though I knew I wouldn’t be making a purchase it was interesting that he judged our pocketbook based on our outfits.


This place was scary as well, but just in an overwhelming sense.  Topshop is the Euro version of Forever 21.  Way more in my price range and somewhere I fit in.

The average shopper was women.  I’d say 95% women and 5% men.  Then again the women’s section was huge in comparison to the mens.  Their demographic I would guess as a company would be late teens to early twenties, but in London you can wear whatever you want.

There was a nice range at topshop.  You could get out cheap or you could splurge.  My favorite was the shoe section.  It was huge!!! I lost my friends in the shoe section.  Its amazing how different it is to shop without a cell phone.  You have to stay closer to your friends, especially in the jungle of topshop.  Let me explain the size of this store. Three stories.  Escalators. Bigger than the Forever 21 in Chicago. I’d say the best size comparison to one floor would be 3/4 of a (American) football field.  Simply massive.

If you were a twenty something you could find something to love in Topshop.  You could get your haircut there! You could eat lunch and of course you could spend a day trying to see everything there was to purchase.

There were no women wearing Hijab’s.  Certainly no one was dropping thousands of pounds either.

Only a few more days in London 😦    In my next blog I’ll wrap up my thoughts on London and decide what I think London’s culture code for fashion is.




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