Rosemary Mac Cabe

Hemlines, heels and haute couture – your daily dose

Playing hard and fast with my emotions

At the end of 2006, Jane Shepherdson left her post as brand director of Topshop and absconded to Whistles, the ailing British high street label, to work her mojo on their somewhat stale and uninteresting designs. And magick them into something new she did, churning …

Tue, Feb 2, 2010, 10:02

   

At the end of 2006, Jane Shepherdson left her post as brand director of Topshop and absconded to Whistles, the ailing British high street label, to work her mojo on their somewhat stale and uninteresting designs. And magick them into something new she did, churning out season after season of versatile, wearable and, above all, well-made clothing.

Topshop is now the pinnacle of quickly turned around high-street designs, taking cues from designers far and wide to produce strong trends and clothing for every occasion, but it wasn’t always so; I remember, in my youth, buying magazines like Just Seventeen and seeing the occasional jot of Topshop, with a smattering of C&A (which had a short-lived foray into the Irish market, but is still alive and well on the continent, and just as terrible as you remembered) and, well, not an awful lot else. So Shepherdson is credited with turning Topshop around – and, at the start of last year, she began to do the same with Whistles.

Things began to take off almost immediately; Whistles was featured in almost every major fashion magazine, in a feat of PR almost unheard of until then. Shepherdson gave interviews to all and sundry; Vogue loved Whistles, and the game was done. But it’s not all smoke and fancy interviews – the collections have consistently been some of the best on the high street and, while the prices don’t match Topshop’s, they’re by no means exorbitant. Some basics? Yes. A lot of interesting fabrics, flattering cuts and on-trend pieces that, crucially, will last through a few seasons? Certainly.

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This is just a selection of pieces available from Asos. In an effort to buy Irish, I should say that the brand is stocked in Brown Thomas, but until they start matching sterling prices, I’m afraid I’ll be opting for mail order. I am particular enamoured with the black dress on the bottom left. Strong shoulders aren’t going anywhere (thanks, in no small part, to a little label called Balmain), the high neckline is the new, well, black, and long sleeves are never going to be useless, unless you’re planning an imminent emigration.

Furthermore, there’s this watercolour delight, which reminds me of Betty (never being a bad thing), and has the most delightful detailing – basic with a twist. I think I want it all. . .

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