LONDON — Jane Shepherdson, brand director of Topshop, who helped transform the brand into a fashion and retail icon, has resigned. The company said in a statement Thursday that Shepherdson, 43, had been in discussions with Topshop owner Philip Green over the past few weeks and decided it was time for a change. Green said Shepherdson did a “good job” as brand director, a position she’s held since 1999. “Jane’s got vision, and she’s always had a feel for where the brand should be positioned,” he told WWD. Shepherdson has spent more than 20 years — her entire professional career — at Topshop, starting out as assistant buyer and working her way up to buying director and eventually brand director. She is widely credited with helping transform what was once a mundane high-street chain into a fast-fashion mecca, hiring designers Celia Birtwell, Zandra Rhodes and Sophia Kokosalaki to design special collections for the brand. “She’s got the touch; it’s that magic thing that some people just have,” said Bay Garnett, a London fashion stylist. “Topshop put the heat on designers. If the high street was coming out with all that good stuff, they knew they had to do something new.” On any given Saturday, Topshop’s Oxford Street flagship is packed with manic shoppers hunting for the latest trends. It’s even become a tourist attraction. Under Shepherdson’s watch, Topshop rolled out an “atelier” service and maternity, infants’, denim, ski, swimwear and accessories lines. Shepherdson and her team have drawn inspiration from everything from David Beckham’s knitted caps to runway trends and Kate Moss’ street style. And on that note, the Topshop statement underlined that Shepherdson’s departure had “absolutely nothing” to do with Topshop’s recent design deal with Moss. As reported, the model will launch an exclusive collection, “Kate Moss for Topshop,” for spring 2007 retailing. “Sir Philip and Jane would like to confirm their unanimous agreement to sign a design collaboration with Kate Moss,” the statement said. Industry sources said Shepherdson left because of “management differences” with Green, and that she did not have another job lined up. Green is a famously hands-on manager, although it’s believed he gave the Topshop team substantially more freedom than the other businesses in his Arcadia stable. During her tenure, Shepherdson nurtured emerging British design talent. A Topshop spokesman said she was instrumental in creating the New Generation sponsorships for young designers. During the most recent London Fashion Week, Topshop sponsored 20 designers on the show schedule. Shepherdson’s duties will be assumed by Karyn Fenn, the store’s buying director, and Mary Homer, commercial and merchandising director, both of whom have worked with Shepherdson for most of her tenure. Fenn and Homer’s new titles have not been confirmed. Topshop is moving full steam ahead with an international expansion plan. The company is already present in 83 markets. It opened a concept store in Tokyo six weeks ago with a local franchise partner, will open a Moscow unit on Nov. 24 and plans a store in St. Petersburg in the near future. The Topshop spokesman said the transactional Web site, topshop.com, was expected to go live in the U.S. before Christmas — or just after. The retailer continues to look for a bricks-and-mortar site in the U.S. “The team will continue to explore overseas opportunities, whilst at the same time maintaining its strong support for new designer talent in the U.K.,” the statement said.
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