A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Gilly Hicks and Hollister, discussing their Regent Street flagship store openings. They were flying 100 hot lifeguards into London, who would travel on double decker buses from Regent Street to three new Gilly Hicks and Hollister stores – The Bentall Centre in Kingston, Westfield Stratford and Bluewater in Kent. “We would like to invite you to board the bus in Regent street and travel to Westfield with us. Would this be of interest to you?” Not surprisingly I emailed back immediately saying yes.
I’ve done some crazy and unexpected things for fashion over the years, but this was the most surreal experience to date. Here’s a minute-by-minute account of the Saturday I spent with the topless lifeguards. FYI: I’m using a bit of artistic licence when it comes to the timings – because who seriously has time to look at a watch when you’re surrounded by hot lifeguards?
9.30am: I arrive at the brand new Gilly Hicks and Hollister flagship stores on Regent Street. Teenage girls are already lining up outside both shops, waiting for the lifeguards to arrive.
10am: Four buses descend on Regent Street. There are toned bodies everywhere you look, girls are screaming so loudly I wonder whether One Direction have quit the music industry to become topless lifeguards and Gilly Hicks’ infamous “Down Undies” are flying from the sky. The topless lifeguards will spend the day throwing 140,000 pairs of Down Undies over London.
10.05am: This [see video below] happens. Girls grab as many Down Undies as they can.
10.15am: Somehow amongst all this madness the Gilly Hicks and Hollister stores are officially opened. The lifeguards hop back onto their buses and the Gilly Hicks teams get out their hot-lifeguard-checklists to make sure everyone is on board. You don’t want to lose a lifeguard!
10.20am: Everyone is on board the Westfield Stratford bus, so we take off on a tour of London. Crowds of slightly confused people gather around Oxford Circus station as Down Undies fall at their feet. Traffic is stopped as people get out their camera phones to capture the madness.
11.10am: We’re nearing Westfield Stratford. Lifeguards take turns to warm up at the bottom of the bus. Some take photos of the Olympic stadium with their iPhones, others head straight to the sandwiches. It becomes clear that topless lifeguards are really just like us. Kind of.