Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Meet the Style Guru Behind the Chain; Why Jane Shepherdson Is Now the Most Wanted Woman on the High Street

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Meet the Style Guru Behind the Chain; Why Jane Shepherdson Is Now the Most Wanted Woman on the High Street

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH MOWER

JANE Shepherdson is a blonde with a gleam in her eye and a bounce in her Prada bucklesandalled step. As well she might be. Yesterday, at 10am, as she showed me around Topshop at 214 Oxford Street, customers were already charging headlong down the escalators, a couple of popstar's stylists, laden with carrier bags, were theatrically powwowing amid the suede fringed bags and ...

and Arcadia Group plc's shares were performing a steep upward zoom - which rose during the day to more than 10 per cent higher than the night before.

That's Jane's stock options we're talking about: part of her personal reward for being the woman who has, as Topshop's brand director, contributed incalculably to the retail group's current spectacular turnaround.

At 39, Jane Shep, as she's known in the business, is a breezy, down-to-earth retail speed-freak who, dressed in her jeans and Marc by Marc Jacobs cotton drill military jacket, looks indistinguishable from any one of her customers.

A Bristol-born girl, the daughter of a university maths professor and a biochemist, Jane lives in Camden with her husband Barry, who is doing a law degree. She has worked at Topshop for her entire 16-year career.

Jane jumps on the Tube at 7.30am and arrives at work every day ready to get her buzz from the clothes - and the sales printouts. "We all gather round in the office on a Monday morning and say 'Wow! Have you seen that!'" she grins, grabbing a pair of "Ria" low-rise vintage-wash jeans, sold under Topshop's Moto brand. "For instance, we've been selling 17,000 of these a week for six months. That's [pound]15 million on one pair of jeans."

I'm staggered. "Yep", she says.

"We sell more denim than anyone else in the country.

nicest thing." Delivering exciting, fast-moving fashion has been one force behind Topshop's recent success.

Another is the fact that, even as Shepherdson has moved up the age bracket herself, her market has grown with her: UK perma-youth rules.

"We've done particularly well on the back of the fact that 40-year-old women are now happy to wear what they once might have worn as teenagers," she says.

She has a photographic memory for her own big fashion moments at Clifton High School. "I remember making my own clothes and customising them. I had a turquoise and white crochet poncho. And a really horrible brown smock which I wore with a shirt with one of those long collars underneath." In retail, it helps to have been there, done that, get the psychology WE now sell to everyone from 12 to women my age," Shepherdson declares. And to prove it, she's opening her jacket to flash "The Kate Moss" - a definitively cut white vest, another new bestseller. "We called it that because we were looking at pictures of her and thinking how she always has the right T-shirt, you know? …

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