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Topshop: The Students are Revolting

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This weekend Highstreet fashion store Topshop – targeted by students and UK Uncut earlier this after accusations of tax avoidance – brings out a new slogan T-shirt.

What does it say? The Students are Revolting. Image courtesy of Siraj Datoo - www.sirajdatoo.com

Debate on the slogan has been split. Ellie Mae O’Hagan writes on The Guardian’s Comment Is Free that ‘Topshop's brand gurus saw the opportunity to sell their customers something zeitgeist, and frivolously took it’, adding that she thought, ‘I imagine they had images of students protesting outside their stores adorned in the clothing within.’

Warwick University student Siraj Datoo has also called Topshop owner Sir Philip Green ‘immature and Childish’ for the move in response to protests that hit his stores in December.

However, as I student I can call to mind many non-student friends and people I knew who condemned the student and UK Uncut’s protests; one or two awkward conversations were had in pubs with friends of friends (I was at the student protests lobbying MPs) who held the opinion that everyone was victim of funding cuts and the students should just put up with it, and how others gave young people a bad name provoking police and at times causing violence. I should add that many of those who geld this opinion shopped at Topshop and Topman, and I’m sure wouldn’t turn heir nose up at a cheeky but fashionable shot at those students they disagreed with.

There is also no doubt that the student protests were seen as fashionable by many. I myself can remember hearing the story of a student who was right in the middle of the kettle outside parliament whilst I was inside lobbying MPs, and feeling that slight jealousy you get when you hear about a great party you’ve missed when he recounted his stories of thousands of students raving to Lethel Bizzle in a giant kettle with beers surrounded by an unbreakable wall of Police and horses. It’s exciting and cool, and the explosion of pictures uploaded by attendees of the protests to Twitter and Facebook demonstrate this.

Protests by those campaigning against Sir Philip Green’s apparent tax avoidance outside London’s Oxford Circus branched caused the flagship store to close on December 4. The Brighton branch also had to shut its doors that day after campaigners glued their hands to its windows, and similar demonstrations took place outside stores in Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Nottingham, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Campaigners claim Sir Philip Green deliberately avoids paying hundreds of millions of pounds in UK tax by channelling funds from his Arcadia Group – comprised of shops such as Topshop and BHS – into his wife’s account in Monaco where they claim permanent residence.

So are Sir Philip Green and Topshop sending out a message to students in revenge? Or cashing in on the idea that it is becoming fashionable to become active in expressing the views of the students at last year’s protests, and campaigners at UK Uncut organised demonstrations outside the premises of those large companies whose repayment of apparent tax avoidance could wipe away the need for students to pay more in today’s  economy?

The answer is probably both – but no doubt the bold move will send interest, publicity and sales of the T-Shirt soaring.

 

Image courtesy of Siraj Datoo - www.sirajdatoo.com

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