Five Minutes with Jane Shepherdson, CBE

Words by
Melanie Rickey

17th October 2022

The former brand director of Topshop and CEO of Whistles who is widely credited for democratising fashion, is now a key national voice in empowering style for women, and shining a light on sustainable fashion practices. In the light of the current BBC documentary about Topshop we couldn’t resist a little nostalgia too..

Making the new Trouble at Topshop documentary with the BBC was important because… It’s a story that needed to be told, about a defining era of British fashion. 

While filming it I remembered... What an incredible team we had, and how much I enjoyed the creative process. There is no feeling like having a team around you who think and feel the way you do, and share your values.

Transitioning from that life has been... I won’t deny it’s been tough not going to an office and being surrounded by a team with the same challenges and objectives. Big laughs too!

Finding out what really matters has given me a new lease of life, and work... I had a kind of epiphany in 2017, and decided that I had to try to use the experience that I've gained from a life in the fashion industry and try to help to make it more environmentally responsible. So today, I only take on projects with that aim in mind which is ultimately more fulfilling.

Topshop, RIP

Topshop, RIP

Trouble at Topshop is airing on BBC iPlayer now

My mission as national patron of Smartworks is you know, Smartworks is the most incredible charity, in that it helps women get back into the workplace through offering them great clothing and with personal one-on-one coaching. It is a very successful at what it does for women, and this allows me to experience the transformative power of fashion through dressing clients. The difference a great suit makes to someone’s confidence and self-esteem is remarkable.

I took on the Chair at My Wardrobe HQ because… I think that fashion rental is one of the ways that we can enjoy fashion, but in a more responsible way. I became Chair of My Wardrobe HQ to help to raise awareness, and build credibility in the industry. Renting a designer outfit is so much fun, I would advise everyone to try it once!

More and more people are renting… If you haven't rented an all over embroidered Gucci suit, you have no idea how amazing it makes you feel! Not having to worry about getting £ per wear out of it is also very liberating! Rental is growing fast and it gets more popular every year. In fact almost 17% of wedding guests interviewed in 2021 stated that they were wearing rented outfits, and with so many weddings to go to, it’s no surprise.

Miu Miu S/S 23 by Miuccia Prada
Miu Miu's new collection for Spring/Summer 2023

The best fashion I’ve seen recently was at... Miu Miu, I absolutely LOVED the most recent catwalk show. I probably wouldn’t find an occasion to wear it, but I think Miuccia Prada is a goddess!

The highlight of my career so far has to be... launching Topshop at London Fashion Week.

After seeing ASOS unveil their new Topshop collection last week... what do I think of it? Hmm, my feeling is it is probably too early to tell if it has a personality or not. It’s a tough thing to reinvent a brand that has lost its mojo.

The fashion accessory and tech items I am never without... are my cross body Loewe bag and iPhone with buds.

The podcast I last downloaded... was rather embarrassingly  Mary Portas’s podcast that I was featured on - oh dear, that makes me seem very full of myself!?

The beauty/make-up staple I never leave home without is... Glossier lip balm.

My guiltiest pleasure...  is The Great British Bake off a guilty pleasure, or the right thing to do?

The one change I would like to inspire within fashion today is... that brands try harder to become more responsible.

The advice I’d give my younger self is... don’t worry about the little things, and enjoy being young and irresponsible.

The upcoming project I’m most excited about is... my foundation course in art and design!

Jane is national patron of Smartworks, and the Chair of My Wardrobe HQ.