It’s hard to walk down a British high street without seeing the influence of Jane Shepherdson.
While she would tell you now, today, that she didn’t exactly set out to revolutionise the way we shop, she did so anyway. From introducing speedy delivery at Topshop to transforming Whistles into a stalwart of style, her rise to retail industry legend has been based around one thing – selling clothes that women love. It’s a task she’s made look easy, when in reality, looking back, it must have been anything but. Who’d want to work with ‘Sir’ Phillip Green?
The downside of her Topshop trajectory, however, has been that her name is now indelibly tied to fast fashion, a sector of her industry increasingly recognised as harmful. For Shepherdson, a woman who has used her fashion nous to help bring attention to charities ranging from Oxfam to Smart Works, it’s an association that must surely smart at times. “We didn’t create fast fashion, fast fashion has always been there,” she insists. “What we did at Topshop was we raised the standard in a way that made the high street more exciting and more compelling. But in that sense, I know that we played our part in making more people buy and were, in a way, responsible.”
By 2016, Shepherdson had begun to fall out of love with the speed of our fast fashion environment. And so, acting on the intuition that had served her so well professionally, she jacked it all in and set off on an adult gap year with her husband, travelling around Canada and North America with few possessions in tow.
Life with less – fewer clothes, fewer possessions – won her over, and by the time she returned to the UK, she says she was keen to do her bit to change the way we shop. It was time to go eco.
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