High-street heroes

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Whistles has a new flagship store and a show at London Fashion Week next Sunday. Harriet Walker finds out how the brand became a household name

There are some brands, you feel, that can't put a foot wrong – and businesswoman Jane Shepherdson often seems to be behind them. It was she who put Topshop on the road to riches with affordable but directional fashion, and it's that same vision that means her current project, Whistles, is experiencing similar runaway success.

A brand new flagship opened last week on Mayfair's Dover Street (other residents there include McQ Alexander McQueen and Acne), and next Sunday the brand will present its premium "Limited Edition" range in a salon show format as part of London Fashion Week.

"I really believe fashion is something that we do very well in this country," says Shepherdson. "It seems to me that London Fashion Week should be able to combine both the newest and most innovative designers, as well as some of Britain's great contemporary brands, and thus celebrate all that is successful about British fashion."

If success can be measured by a profits increase of 13 per cent in 2011, double-digit growth in sales and plans to open 20 more stores across the country, then it would appear Shepherdson still has that magic touch.

Since she took over in 2008, Whistles has become the best-selling premium high-street brand on Asos.com, and has been able to buy back most of its shares from the ill-fated Icelandic bank Glitnir, which was hit so badly by the global crisis.

The key to all this is simple, modern design, updated classics and a consistently accessible interpretation of what's going on at the highest levels of fashion: Whistles' hero pieces are not for the faint-hearted, but its floral "pyjama" set strolled out of the shops last summer, while Kate Middleton is regularly spotted in its more formal styles, and even wore a Whistles blouse for her official engagement portrait.

"It has always been our intention to show at fashion week," Shepherdson continues. "We have been developing the collection and only now feel it is of a standard that we are happy to present. It's vital for our international expansion – you need a global platform to show what you are doing."

And we can't wait to see!

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