For someone who never shopped at Hot Topic as a young teen, my memory of the store is a potent one. Now that I make my living reporting on the fashion business, I look at it and think: Wow. Killer branding.
Hot Topic kicked up some strong feelings when I was 14. Mostly fear, but also intrigue. I'd eye the mall storefront, with its anarchic red signage, as I headed home from another trip to Delia*s and Bath & Body Works; I scrutinized my suburban middle school's resident delinquent, who wore metal band T-shirts and black cargo pants with chains dangling from them, with equal seriousness. I wasn't judging so much as making notes. I had a taste for macabre aesthetics, but neither a rebellious streak nor the desire to look like I did. So I zipped up my blue terry-cloth hoodie and watched.
Years later, on a mission to acquire some "Harry Potter" paraphernalia for my younger sister's birthday, I made my first purchase from Hot Topic, a shirt printed with an image of the late actor Alan Rickman in full Hogwarts robes. As far as retail experiences go, it wasn't particularly stressful. At 18, I'd graduated to timidly exploring luxury stores, where I felt out of place in a new and scarier way.
And yet, here's how readily my mind still invokes the specter of Hot Topic: Backstage at Adam Selman on Thursday, I asked a model for a look at her nails for the show. It was a reverse French manicure situation in cherry red and black — with a crescent strip at the cuticle rather than the tip — and without thinking, I said, "Oh, Hot Topic colors." The damn store has laid claim to a color scheme that could belong just as easily to Christian Louboutin, ladybugs or the flag of Albania.
The girl Adam Selman had in mind this season might actually shop at Hot Topic, were she not already wearing a $600 dress by the designer. As hairstylist James Pecis, working on the show with Amika, explained, "The girls are a little bit gothic. She's an angsty youth. She smokes pot. She has curly hair, but she brushes it out."
Backstage at Tanya Taylor on Friday, the models wore typically luminous, pretty makeup, but their nail polish faded from blood red at the cuticle to black at the tip. (The result of layering Morgan Taylor's Orange You Glad over From Paris With Love and spongeing on Little Black Dress.) And at Creatures of the Wind, Nars makeup artist Mark Carrasquillo gave the young women a red lip ringed with brown eyeliner used as lip liner, which looked almost black under the runway lights. (A "bitchy" lip, he said.) Set against a multitude of cheery patterns, as at Tanya Taylor, or Creatures of the Wind's turtlenecks and lace dresses, the red-and-black elements looked vampy in a polished way, devoid of the sloppy handed mistakes of youth — a look for the Hot Topic girl, grown up.