With its strong womenswear presence in London, Whistles, a brand loved for their easy to wear separates and “essential wardrobe” pieces, is about to venture into the world of menswear – a journey that has been spearheaded by industry veteran Jane Shepherdson. Here, fresh on the heels of her debut men’s collection, Jane walks us through her menswear execution.
Life+Times: You began your career at Topshop where you ultimately held the position as Brand Director. During your tenure at the company, what were some of your proudest accomplishments?
Jane Shepherdson: There were so many things I was proud of achieving at Topshop, but I guess the most exciting was getting Topshop onto the schedule at London Fashion Week, as no other High Street brand had ever been accepted before that. It was our chance to prove that we weren’t copying designer trends, but we were creating our own and interpreting the macro trends in our own way. I was also very proud to get Topshop into Opening Ceremony as our first step into the extremely competitive US market. Humberto and Carol were incredible partners and were not only very supportive of what we were trying to do, but understood Topshop and knew that it would fit right in. Most of all I loved seeing girls on the street wearing our collections and looking so cool. Who wouldn’t love to see that?
L+T: You left Topshop in 2008 to join the team at Whistles, a company that was deemed as a mid-market womenswear retailer in need of a reboot. What was most exciting about the role?
JS: Whistles was ripe for a makeover and it felt a little like a blank canvas for us to project our creative vision onto. It was more premium than Topshop so we could experiment with much more luxurious fabrics and it gave us the opportunity to create collections for the women we felt wanted something different.
L+T: What was your vision for the brand? Since you started, how has it changed?
JS: We originally used the term “modern and effortless fashion” to describe what we wanted to deliver. I think we have pretty much done it although it was not a straightforward journey. When we arrived, the brand was selling very pretty, frilly slightly boho-style clothes that had little relevance.
L+T: You managed to change the brand – for the better. In terms of the aesthetic, how has it transformed?
JS: Our aesthetic is about effortless, pared down, simplistic and chic clothes that mirror the trends of a season – but can equally be worn the next season in a different way. They look as if the wearer hasn’t tried too hard, but just threw on whatever was at hand, and it just kind of worked. People look both cool and easy when they’re in our clothes.
L+T: Fall/Winter 2014 saw your first fashion show during London Fashion Week, which was highly successful. Why was this important to the brand?
JS: The most important thing was that it gave us international exposure that we would not have achieved by doing anything else. It allowed us to showcase the collection to a new audience who had no preconceptions of the brand.
L+T: Now, you’ve recently launched menswear. Was this something that you always wanted to tackle?
JS: We have always wanted to create a menswear line, right from the start, but knew that we should try to get womenswear right first, and that took longer than we anticipated. We all love menswear and have really enjoyed putting this collection together and learning all about how men shop.
L+T: How do you define the Whistles man? Who is he? What does he like to do? What are his interests?
JS: He is discerning, independent and knows his own style. He looks after himself, and participates in sports, but isn’t obsessed with fitness. He is interested in the arts and media and probably lives in an urban environment. He doesn’t have to try too hard.
L+T: What inspired the new men’s range? What are its influences and inspirations?
JS:We wanted to create a wardrobe of everyday pieces made special by luxurious fabrics and contemporary details – modern classics with a sporty and effortless feel. We wanted the whistles aesthetic to flow through both collections so that there was a synergy and that both complimented the other – sharp design with an emphasis on quality and function. We created a “dude board” and stuck images of all the guys we thought looked cool, but hadn’t spent all day in front of the mirror.
L+T: The collection will also be housed in a stand-alone shop. Can you tell me a little bit about the stores interior?
JS: The décor will be similar to our existing stores – simple, organic and minimal. We are obsessed with huge succulents right now so I think there may be a few of them creating a slightly weird desert feel, and some lifestyle pieces to make our men feel at home.