Monday, January 28, 2008

What Jane Did Next

We knew Jane Shepherdson had something up her sleeve after she left her job as brand director at Topshop. You don't become arguably the most influential woman in British retail and then leave to spend more time with your cats/children/lover.*

But who knew she'd be getting in bed with Baugar? It was announced today that she has finalised a deal with investment company Baugur to purchase Whistles with immediate effect. Jane becomes CEO of the retailer and is joined by Finance Director Keith Wilks and Marketing Director Jo Farrelly, both of whom worked with Jane at Topshop.

As a result of the management buy-in, Whistles will be separated from its former owner Mosaic Fashions through a newly-created company owned in part by Jane and her team. Commenting on the development of the brand Jane said, "We see a great opportunity to create something unique for the woman who loves great design, isn't scared of a little edginess and who wants to reference but not slavishly follow trends."

I adore Whistles. Not for its own label safe knits & trademark pretty tops, but for its clever buy of labels like Antik Batik & Michael Stars. (And I love its bargain sales too.)

But my love of Whistles goes way, way back. My very first black tie outfit came from Whistles in Oxford. When I was 16, my contemporaries all seemed to sport taffeta evening dresses with sweetheart necklines and poofy skirts (this was in 1988 before fashion had filtered down to teenagers) and, if you were really cool, you wore black DM lace ups or eight hole boots with your dress. Laura Ashley and Monsoon were popular, or else girls made their dresses in the Textiles classroom after school.

Me, I wore a curvy nipped in waist, black double breasted wool evening jacket with a low square neckline and long sleeves, matched with a staggeringly trendy (at the time)Ghost anthracite, dropped waist, full circle knee length skirt in Ghost's trademark wrinkled viscose. No one 'got' my outfit, but I loved it -and I loved my mother more for buying it for me from her meagre salary. I remember that the jacket cost £125 - an absolute fortune back then, and the skirt was £85. I still have both pieces, but the skirt no longer works now that I have hips, and the jacket strains over my bust. I've wrapped them both in tissue paper, and stored them in my parent's attic.

*delete as applicable