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18 Jane Shepherdson (58)

Chief executive, Whistles

After three years of criticism for failing to deliver on the hype around her appointment, not to mention the Icelandic banking collapse of 2009, Jane Shepherdson finally produced a standout collection for womenswear chain Whistles this autumn, and as such is one of this year’s highest climbers in the Top 100.

Matching the season’s biggest trend for minimalism, Whistles has wowed shoppers and fashion editors alike with its well-cut trousers, leather shorts and feminine dresses, leaving behind the confused, eclectic signature of the past two years to find Whistles’ new identity.

The strategy rethink has paid off, with Shepherdson poised to return Whistles to the black. In October, figures seen by Drapers showed that in the year to January 31, EBITDA losses at the chain narrowed to £400,000 from £1.1m the year before as the retailer improved its margins through reduced markdowns and also recorded like-for-like sales growth. Total sales were largely flat at £34.3m during the year, impacted by the closure of four underperforming stores. The sales bounceback continued into this year, with like-for-likes and total sales “strongly positive” to October 1, according to Shepherdson, who said that if trade continues as it is, she was confident Whistles would move back to profitability this year.

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