British High-Street Women’s Fashion
View Whistles fashion collections on London Fashion Review Blog
A Total Overhaul: The Revamping of Whistles
Ever since the Whistles label reached the grand old age of 30 years in fashion in 2006, it has been undergoing a significant reinvention, spearheaded by Jane Shepherdson (below), former Topshop saviour, after her recruitment in 2008. Before Shepherson joined the team, Whistles was a brand losing direction, and as a result, was viewed by many to become stale – a word that no fashion label or designer wants to hear. Gone are the days of the ‘yummy mummy’; Shepherdson has brought Whistles back to life by bringing a much edgier style to the collections.
- 1976: Whistles is founded by Lucille Lewin and the first store opens in Marylebone, London. The label is responsible for launching the careers of fashion royalty John Galliano, Dries van Noten and John Paul Gautier.
- 2008: Jane Shepherdson, former Brand Director of Topshop, took over Whistles as Chief Executive (with her management team), charged with the task of reinventing the brand. She also buys a 20% stake in the label .
- 2009: The retail empire Bauger, the Icelandic investment group, that was controlling Whistles, goes into administration. Whistles was refinanced and became an independent company.
- 2010: Fashion designer Roksanda Illincic signs on for 3 seasons as a guest designer.
- 2011: There are 36 stand-alone Whistles stores across the UK and Ireland, and 49 concessions within leading department stores including London’s Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Harrods. Additionally, there is a franchise store in the Middle East and a concession in Printemps in Paris. A successful ecommerce site, ships throughout the globe.
Jane Shepherdson: Saviour of Whistles
Incredibly well respected in the fashion industry, she was crowned the most powerful woman in British fashion by the industry magazine Drapers in 2010 and has recieved an MBE for services to retail.
Jane Sheperdson is best known for turning round the successes of Topshop from cheap and tacky to one the hottest brands on the high street. When she left Topshop and the Arcadia group in 2006 after 20 years of loyal service, it sent shockwaves throughout the fashion community, wondering where she would next direct her Midas touch. She turned her talent to charity, doing voluntary work for Oxfam and becoming an advisor for ethical fashion label, People Tree . Inundated with offers after her split with Topshop, it was a surprise to the fashion world when she chose to join Whistles, a relatively small brand, compared to what she was used to, and a brand that had perhaps fallen out of favour with the public. However, Shepherdson grasped theopportunity to be her own boss. It’s noteworthy that she still finds time to dedicate some of her time to Oxfam and People Tree.
The Whistles Woman
“There was a gap in the market. No one was doing that design-led, cool, effortless thing that me and my contemporaries wanted to wear”
The Whistles woman wants beautiful fabrics, well designed with an easy,laid-back British feel. She is the career woman who is classy and confident and wants edgy, quality clothing to reflect her position. She wants a hint of the current trends but doesn’t want to be a slave to them. Samantha Cameron, wife to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has been seen wearing several items from Whistles at London’s 2011 Fashion Week. The silhouettes have become cleaner and the colour palette more sophisticated; moving away from girly pastels and into more neutral colours. The fussy embellishments of the old ‘mumsy’ clothing have been replaced by quirky vintage detailing, giving the garments a classy and expensive feel.
Whistles Fashion: Ethical Traders
Like Jane Sherpardson, Whistles as a company is committed to ethical and eco-friendly fashion. All products produced in the Whistles collections of women’s clothing and accessories are said to be manufactured under safe and humane working conditions.
Shepherdson has created an ethical policy at Whistles, finding out exactly where everything is made, visiting key suppliers and ensuring that nothing is subcontracted. She wants to bring in more Fair Trade brands alongside smaller, boutique labels such as Humanoid and jewellery designers, Alex Monroe.
Future of the Whistles label
Since Jane Shepherdson took over,the Whistles brand has undergone reinvention. However, the strategy of Whistles is not about huge and fast expansion. There are rumours that a big flagship store in central London may be in the pipeline, but before then, the reinvented Whistles needs to re-establish itself once more as a fashionable brand with direction. With Jane Shepherdson at the helm, this shouldn’t be a problem.