First published on 25 Jun 2013. Updated on 4 Nov 2013.
It’s not quite Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, and it’s not exactly Clueless, either. But with fashion collections ranging from high school burnouts and goths to varsity jocks, dreamers and sassy bitches, we get the impression that River Island’s design team has been indulging in a ’90s movie marathon. Those are not the real names of the store’s collections; they’re more like ‘Pacific’ and ‘Noir’, but with knee-high leather boots, Hawaiian prints, sports jerseys, head-to-toe neon and washed-out pastels à la Miami Vice, it seems RI is covering their bases with a style to match every Hollywood high school cliché.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Time Out was invited to admire the collection at the UK brand’s tiptoe launch towards opening a physical store somewhere in Australia. On June 5 an Australian website, au.riverisland.com, was launched including the store’s latest collaboration with Rihanna, (the second of a planned four ranges designed by the Barbadian singer… best worn with a raised middle finger).
A limited River Island range has been available in Australia through ASOS since 2011, and marketing director Josie Roscop tells Time Out that it has been the website’s best-selling brand. Roscop wasn’t prepared to reveal any likely locations for the first Australian flagship, but she tells us they’ve been assessing the market for a while and “the senior team have been looking at prominent high street sites” both in Melbourne and Sydney.
So what does the website launch mean? River Island will be customising their collections to work with the demand from Australia, they’re creating marketing and merchandising to appeal directly to a southern hemisphere shopper (without ‘dumping old stock’ down under). “We found that shoppers [in Australia] want what’s in store and in fashion now – all across the globe,” says Roscop, and “we’ll tailor the website for the Australian market.”
When Time Out went to press, stock was still priced in pounds, from five quid for socks to £200 for leather jackets, but that will transfer to Aus dollars very soon. The e-store is also selling its Pacha swimwear range, produced in collaboration with the clubbing institution. Plus, drawing inspiration from its roots, River Island boasts a vintage-inspired collection called ‘Chelsea Girl’ – the name of the brand in the 1960s and ’70s – a formal suiting range for men, as well as distressed, patchwork pieces (university outfitter-style), and clothes for kids.
“Inclusive” and “inspiring” was how Roscop described River Island, and as the British store paves its way into a permanent fixture in Australia’s retail landscape we’re anticipating it’ll receive a customarily warm welcome. Hopefully in Melbourne first.