Work Flow…With Jane Shepherdson CBE

By Amira Hashish

Jane Shepherdson is a trailblazer in the fashion industry. With more than 20 years of experience as brand director of Topshop and CEO of Whistles, she has a wealth of knowledge to impart and is passionate about nurturing talent. 

Having transformed the High Street retailers into global fashion brands, she is using her experience to find a way to enjoy fashion without damaging the planet. She joined rental and resale platform MY WARDROBE HQ in 2019 as Chair and has taken it to new heights. 

Also the director of the London Fashion Fund, which champions small businesses to change the future of the industry, she is a true pioneer. We can think of no one more brilliant to kick off our series of Work Flow interviews with inspiring business leaders. Here she joins Amira Hashish in conversation…

What inspired your route into retail?

I’ve always loved fashion, but discovered early on that I didn’t have the talent to actually design clothes so I found the next best thing, which was being a buyer. That entailed working closely with a designer and putting a collection together that would both delight and sell.

Tell us about your latest projects…

Having left traditional retail behind, after realising the incredible environmental harm we were causing, I have moved into fashion rental. I am currently the Chair of MY WARDROBE HQ, a luxury fashion rental platform, which fulfills both my desire to make beautiful designer pieces available to many who could not afford them and to enjoy fashion without harming the planet quite as much.

I’m also a Director of the London Fashion Fund, an organisation that funds small fashion businesses that will change the future of the industry both socially and environmentally. It’s a real privilege to meet and work with super smart entrepreneurs who are changing our relationship with fashion and hopefully the future for all of us. We have invested in businesses who are growing cotton hydroponically using 80% less water. Now we are partnering with the big High Street retailers and even a small business making leather from microbial weaving. It’s a revelation!

What do you love most about what you do?

I really love meeting people with ideas. Especially those who have an idealism and optimism for our future. If I can help them in any small way, I get great satisfaction from that.

If you had to pick a career defining moment what would it be?

Well, this is going back a long way but when we first showed our Topshop Unique collection on the catwalk at London Fashion Week. It was a huge moment for the whole team. We felt that we had proved that Topshop was a hotbed of creativity and that we had gained huge credibility within the industry.

How do you manage your time?

I’m not brilliant at managing my time and consequently I like to get things done as soon as possible, which doesn’t always work. I feel like I am always rushing but perhaps that’s the way I work best?

Do you have any advice for those keen to follow in your footsteps?

Only do something you are passionate about. Don’t just follow the money. This is your life, you have to engage with it fully.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned along the way?

The best thing that you can do is to surround yourself with people who are absolutely brilliant at what they do. Don’t fear their brilliance, bask in the reflected glow of it.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?

I’m not sure there has been one person who has influenced me but I have been hugely influenced and astonished by the talent and creativity of those in my team. I have learned so much from them.

How has the fashion landscape changed over the years and what does the future of the British High Street look like?

The fashion landscape has changed almost unrecognisably in the last five years. The combination of e-commerce and Covid has meant that we have all changed the way that we interface with brands and they have had to catch up. Visiting a High Street store is no longer necessary, so their presence has to offer something more than a physical representation of an online store. We expect experiences, a showcase, theatre and visual stimulation. In my opinion, we aren’t getting much of that yet, but things are changing.

Where do you go to get away from it all?

I love to travel. I took a year out and did a road trip around the West Coast of America a couple of years ago. I spent all my time hiking, canoeing and generally exploring the incredible physical landscapes the US has to offer. I’m off to Corsica for the month of June. We are driving there with our dog, Dexter. We will be stopping in Paris for a few days, Nice for a weekend, and then going back through the Alps or walking in flower-filled meadows. Contrast is everything.