Pencil, Tube & Midi skirts. Shepherdson unveils vision for Whistles. Sources who have seen Shepherdson’s first collection for the womenswear retailer, which she bought in January from Mosaic Fashions, told Drapers she had instigated a seismic shift at the business.
They added that she was targeting a younger consumer and had produced a collection with similar handwriting to See by Chloé, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Vanessa Bruno and Reiss.Shepherdson’s range will debut in Whistles’ stores in September. One concession partner told Drapers it was a “brave collection” and that Shepherdson had abandoned Whistles’ signature boho styling for 35-plus women in favour of shorter hemlines and more contemporary minimal styling. Belles and Whistles. A row of clothes, including a delicate pink silk blouse and a black cocktail dress, hang artfully from a length of rope in the Whistles showroom, like the prettiest of washing lines.
It might not be a Paris catwalk, but these pieces are some of the most eagerly awaited of the season. This is the first Whistles collection to be overseen by its new chief executive and stakeholder, Jane Shepherdson, the celebrated former brand director of Topshop. Shepherdson's move might have come as a surprise when she announced it in January this year, but when she explained that she wanted to fill the gap in the market for "people who want to buy beautiful quality clothes but can't afford designer prices", it seemed to chime with the Zeitgeist.
As demonstrated by her decision to do voluntary work for Oxfam and take an advisory position at the ethical label People Tree after leaving Topshop at the end of 2006, Shepherdson has a reputation for accurately taking fashion's temperature. Fashion retailer’s radical change of clothes. Whistles’ existing customers were not happy with her decision to overhaul the company’s collection of dowdy dresses.
However, the move did attract younger shoppers. And Whistles’ latest results show the strategy has paid off. Underlying UK sales rose 20pc and the company returned to the black with pre-tax profits of £1.1m. The brand has also won strong reviews from the fashion press for its mix of contemporary casual and workwear for women. The company’s customers are now typically aged between 25 and 50. “When we took over it was a brand that had lost its relevance with contemporary women,” she says. The retailer has 90 stores and concessions in the UK, including 48 standalone sites, and after reinventing the company Ms Shepherdson now aims to grow it. Ms Shepherdson believes that Whistles could grow to 60 standalone stores in the UK. There is an obvious doubt about whether this will work, but Ms Shepherdson is reassuringly level-headed.
And the reasons for the move are sensible. Jane Shepherdson, Chief Executive Officer, Whistles. LONDON, United Kingdom — Perhaps it’s not surprising that, in her spare time, Jane Shepherdson does flying trapeze in Hoxton, smack in the heart of achingly hip East London.
Right from her earliest days in the fashion industry, Shepherdson has been known for taking risks and having her finger on the pulse of what’s cool. After getting her start as an assistant buyer at Topshop, back in 1984, Shepherdson spent twenty years working her way up the ladder to become Topshop’s brand director, effectively overseeing the retail, product, finance, HR and property departments of a company that, under her leadership, was transformed into a globally recognised brand, emblematic of the dynamic nature of British high street fashion. But in 2006, one week after Topshop boss Sir Phillip Green announced a now-defunct fashion collaboration with Kate Moss, Shepherdson abruptly resigned. Shepherdson’s next move was closely watched. BoF: Let’s start with the results. JS: The results are good. BoF: Really? Whistles conquers the 'middle market' of British womenswear. While Marks & Spencer announced a 6.8% drop of general sales last month, another corner of the British high street has been quietly flourishing.
Whistles, the clothing brand set up by Lucille Lewin in the 1980s, announced this week that it had bought back the majority of its shares from the Icelandic government, a move which has underlined its growing strength. Whistles, which has been independent since parting ways with the retail group Mosaic in 2008, has gone from strength to strength despite a tough economic climate. Sales were up 13% in 2011 and there was "consistent double digit like for like sales growth," this year, according to a company statement.
How Whistles Reemerged as One of the Most Exciting Contemporary Brands in Fashion. 2008 was not an easy year for many in the fashion industry -- least of all, perhaps, for Jane Shepherdson.
The former Topshop brand director, once described as "the most powerful woman on the high street," had just become chief executive of (and a substantial investor in) a fading British brand called Whistles. Days before the brand was scheduled to unveil its relaunch, Lehman Brothers collapsed. "It was terrible," Shepherdson recalls. "The whole year was just really, really stressful -- I lost about a stone. " It's clear that things are not so terrible for Shepherdson now.
To say that it's a busy time at Whistles is an understatement. We asked Shepherdson about how Whistles survived -- and reinvented itself -- during those tough early years, its plans for international expansion and its hopes for a show at New York Fashion Week. You started at Whistles seemingly at the worst possible time -- right before the Lehman collapse. Yes, it was terrible.