Jane Shepherdson – A feminist fashion hero

Dubbed the ‘fairy godmother of the high street’, Jane Shepherdson initially made a name for herself as the woman responsible for her innovative work at Topshop. She is renowned for turning the high street brand into the fashion forerunner that it is today. Shepherdson worked for the company for 20 years, leaving as Brand Director in October 2006.

Shepherdson’s departure from Topshop sparked controversy based on her notoriously difficult relationship with Topshop founder Sir Philip Green and his decision to hire Kate Moss for a fashion collaboration. However, both parties have denied any truth to this speculation.

At this point in her career Jane turned her hand to the drastically different world of charity shops. Famously receiving a handwritten note from Oxfam suggesting “I hear you’ve got a bit of time on your hands.” It was indeed the vision and experience of Shepherdson that urged the charity to capitalise on the idea of ethical and sustainable fashion, under label PeopleTree.

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Jane has now been CEO of Whistles, for seven years. She has been credited with the brand’s evolution from ‘mumsy’, to the sleeker, stylish silhouettes seen lining their stores today. She cites Sophia Coppola as ‘The Whistles Woman’, someone she considers to embody the understated sophistication of the brand. The company expanded stateside last year, evidence of her constant drive and ambition for the label to grow and develop.

However, Shepherdson is more than merely a success story of high street retail. She is an example and role model demonstrating the place of women in the world of fashion. As an advocate for change in the industry, she has previously spoken out against her field as a male dominated world, suggesting “This industry employs over 80% women, and yet in the boardrooms, they make up less than 10%. It’s women’s fashion – it just doesn’t make sense to me”. In an attempt to change this, Shepherdson not only prides herself on communication with students and young women, but is also keen to urge this generation that they are able to affect these statistics for the better.

She has most recently been appointed CBE in the New Year Honours published at the start of this year for services to UK retail business, and continues to evolve the Whistles brand.


Molly Shanahan

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