Trends come and go, but fashion expert Jane Shepherdson and her influence over the fashion industry is here to stay. Her magical touch has transformed businesses into cultural trendsetters, as shown in her time as Brand Director of Topshop and CEO of Whistles, a position in which she was awarded a CBE for her services to high street fashion.
Now, Shepherdson wants to make an impact in other ways. Unafraid to challenge harmful practices in the fashion industry, she is encouraging people to question their responsibility on both an individual and corporate level. Having done some soul-searching, Shepherdson entered the rental industry and is currently the Chair of My Wardrobe HQ, an online rental platform that allows you to rent out designer clothes at a price that won’t leave you afraid to check your bank balance. She’s even helped found projects such as the London Fashion Fund, which aims to support up-and-coming designers with innovative ideas and sustainable solutions. Also recognising the economic disparities in fashion, Shepherdson became a Smart Works Patron, and works closely with the charity to help provide unemployed women with smart business clothing, and give them a new lease of confidence.
Now that’s what you call a fashion icon.
Where does your love for fashion come from?
I’ve been dressing since I was a child! I have always loved the transformative power of fashion - you can be whoever you want to be!
Are there any current trends in the fashion scene that you’re excited about?
Well this summer I’m loving the big poplin shirt and matching shorts combo - very cool in every way! I’m glad that the milkmaid dress trend is on the wane, as I’ve always been more of a minimalist. Wider trousers are a nice move on from skinnies, and big sleeves always get my vote. I’m also pleased to see hipster skirts and trousers coming back.
You’ve had an extraordinary career and been on quite the journey. When you think about your personal growth, what has been the biggest change from where you started to where you are now?
I think the biggest change in how I feel, is the confidence that I have acquired along the way. When I started out, I would second guess myself frequently, whereas now I go with my gut instincts much more, which, in a creative industry, is really important.
In 2016 you went on a road trip after leaving your position as CEO of Whistles. What was it that drew you to a road trip in particular?
I guess I wanted freedom above all, so we decided to take a year out, and I only booked the first month! After that, we simply went where we wanted. I had broadly decided to spend three months in Vancouver and the Rockies, three months in San Francisco, and three in LA, but apart from that we were free! I would recommend it to anyone that is lucky enough to be able to go. The physical beauty of the landscape of the West Coast is phenomenal.
There are so many different avenues in fashion, a lot of which you’ve explored, and are now the Chair of My Wardrobe HQ. Why did you choose to go into fashion rentals?
I spent a long time considering which direction to go in, and at one point was going to launch a responsible fashion hub, but I couldn’t find enough brands that were credible design wise. Rental seemed to me to be one answer to the problem that fashion is, and it also allows people to enjoy fashion in a way that they couldn’t before. Who wouldn’t want to wear a Gucci suit for £30?
You are also a director at London Fashion Fund – why did you choose to join this project?
I helped to set it up five years ago in order to try to support the fashion industry of the future. We only fund businesses that are environmentally and socially responsible, and will help others in the future.
When looking through possible businesses to fund, what attracts you the most?
A real passion is super important. It’s not easy to start a business but it’s easy to run out of steam! We also consider the founders carefully, to ensure that they have the requisite grit and determination to see it through.
What advice would you give to young people trying to enter the fashion industry?
Keep trying to do it better, don’t be put off by the status quo, and stick to your guns!
Fashion is about self-expression and feeling confident in your clothes. Do you have an item or an outfit that best reflects who you are?
Yes, my pink Prada jacket, and gold Gucci shoes - when I wear both of them I feel completely in control, and full of confidence.
You have been very vocal about the need for more ethical practices within the fashion industry. In your opinion, what’s the future of fashion?
I hope that some of the new collaborations we are seeing between science and fashion will help us to bring about change for the better, and allow future generations to enjoy fashion in a more considered manner.
You can find out more at:
Twitter: @JaneShep1My Wardrobe HQ: www.mywardrobehq.com