whistles charlotte barr-richardson
Post on 16-Feb-2017
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Established in 1976by Lucille and
In 1990 Whistles was awarded
Relaunch in 2008By CEO Jane Shepherdson
2012 Menswear range was
A total of 53 stores and 74 Concessions
With over 40 years of the Whistles brand, there has been major changes to both the store, the look and the client base. In the late 70s when the brand was established there was an incredible focus on the client; yummy-mummys. This high fashion brand was created as a high street store for those wanting something simple yet different. The need for individuality within the 70s and 80s is very much ignored, and the want for simplicity and block colours is very much underestimated. Women aged 35 and onwards was the original target audience; a similar age to Lucille Lewin who was the owner and creative director of the company. This correlation between designer and client is what enabled Whistles to grow rapidly, as the audience was understood and reflected through Lucille. However
after 25 years of Lewins designs, this 35 age figure was slipping away slowly meaning the styles, colour palettes and the essence of the brand was being misread and blurred.
Quickly after the involvement of Jane Shepherdson in 2008 there was a large shift in the client base; with the target age being lowered to 25; enabling a new, fresh target to be the main focus of the brand. Shepherdson herself admitted that: there were frills, bows, extra buttons it was all quite fussy. I needed to change the brand. It was quite a risky thing to do but it wasnt an aesthetic that we understood. This shift and understanding from Shepherdson complies with the feelings of many who once knew the brand, and the truth behind the break down of communication
between brand and audience was highlighted. Taking a well-developed brand into a different direction could be confirmed or rejected within a season of the change; however with Shepherdsons experience within the industry it was greatly received.
The new aesthetic has enabled a completely new clientele to become interested in Whistles. With a modern twist on the original pieces, with a change of fabrics, colours and designs this is exactly what the Whistles customers were waiting for. This new established direction and the unique vision which Shepherdson has taken, means there is a huge gap in the market for simplicity; which is precisely what the Whistles customer desires.
Whistles has been one of the biggest talking points over the last couple of years within the fashion industry; with large changes such as a revamp and a change of staff and CEO; Jane Shepherdson after South African born Lucille Lewin and her husband sold their company. Many people within the fashion industry lack the courage to admit when the brand is no longer reflecting the audiences needs, which means that this change within the company itself was a brave move and was praised by all in the industry. In the 80s and 90s Whistles was the go-to-store with the desired high fashion look of the time, with its own secondary brand and designers such as Dries Van Noten. Lucille who met her husband Richard in America, they came to London where Lucille worked at the Harvey Nichols store, and her husband joined the Burton Menswear group. With this fashion knowledge as a grounding, the gap in the market for high street, up market clothing meant that in 1976 they created their own store: Whistles.
The company started buying from high fashion designers such as Betty Jackson and Ally Capellino offering the artists a slot in their shop; this therefore confirmed a name for the brand and an initial audience. With Lucilles links back to British fashion designers like Tania Sarne and Selina Blow, this enabled her knowledge of the gap in the market to blossom. To personalise the brand further Lucille developed a team of in house designers to make clothes for the store, designed by Lewin herself. This opportunity meant that over a couple of years the Lewins had 17 stores across the country and 20 concessions in the likes of Selfridges.
After 25 years of the Whistles brand, the couple decided that they wanted a different challenge, and with the name they had created for Whistles itself, they sold their half of the business to the owner of BHS - Philip Green. Lucille then took on the job of creative director of Liberty London in 2002; but unlike many creators of companies, she is still in contact with Jane Shepherdson - the new CEO - an incredibly bold and loyal decision for the past owner.
Lewin wanted to create a band which was new, something unique for the time, but something which was moderately priced for the designer names the brand included. The garments were created to fit the mould of a confident and independent woman; one who wanted to live the high fashion life but with half the price tag. The inspiration, taken from history, fine art and the multi-cultural lifestyles which both Mr and Mrs Lewin obtained over the years enabled the brand to quickly move internationally and appeal to all nationalities.
Whistles flagship store is situated on St Christophers Place in London. Situated next to Mulberry, Jigsaw, Phase Eight and Kurt Geiger, there is an obvious price tag needed to position yourself on the road. With fashion, postcodes are vital to understanding where the brand fits within the industry. The importance of the flagship store explores the possibilities of the stores audience and the customers interest within the brand. Also it is incredibly important to the power and passion of the brand to remember where it came from and where it is going. Being a brand which was founded and created in London, this positioning in the centre of the city means there is a constant stream of clientele, as well as many different styles and types of customers which will become aware of the brand.
International brands have to be incredibly developed, thought out and have a comfortable positioning within the market so that the brand will carry across countries. This was not a problem for Whistles, as the Lewins lived in 8 countries before finally settling in London, they had a vast knowledge about the customer base available worldwide. Outside knowledge is vital to the movement for brands, and the need to travel and explore the possibilities of their brand pushed the Lewins to create the international brand it is today.
The Whistles Brand
Its an effortless way of dressing. It is unique, theres an insouciance to it, a sort of I just
threw it together and it worked. Thats what we try to encapsulate. It is easy and laid back, but
also luxurious. - Jane Sheperdson
Since then, the clothes have gradually gained a recognisable slickness. Classic shift dresses in vibrant prints, tailored sportswear pieces and suiting that looks cool rather than conventional is now Whistles
fare. - Jane Shepherdson
The pricing of products is one of many factors which can separate the rivals and competitors from each other. Some expensive brands can become quickly set apart within specific sectors of the industry, some can be seen as luxurious and better quality, and then lower down the pricing scale can lead to people questioning the product and the quality, or it can draw them in just from the price. Comparing and looking at the pricing margins can really help to understand the markets and where they sit within the fashion pyramid.
Indicated on the right is competitve pricing of a plain white tee from each of the main competiors. The interesting element is that the prices of a basic piece of clothing is completely different in comparison to the rest of the collection, meaning that pricing and looking into the costs of garments can bring up odd variables in comparison to the average price within the brand.
Within the fashion industry, there are certain roles which are vital, having more of an influence on designs, overall feel and essence of the brand, and the whole management and direction; one that is heavily down to the CEO and creative director. In 2008 Jane Shepherdson left her career as Brand Director at Topshop to redevelop Whistles into the name it has today. She studied Fashion in London and after graduating joined the Burton Group - like Richard Lewin. She is known as the women who transformed high-street shopping, a title which has pushed her career to extraordinary lengths.
The Whistles she took on was one that she was not happy nor familiar with. Coming from one of the most successful retail shops, she had the influence to re-define, re-capture and re-educate the Whistles customer. Her vision for success and the connection she has with the audience is formidable, and something which is projected through the new brand. She wanted to create an effortless way of dressing, and perfect the I just threw it on look, with minimal fuss, a sense of elegance and a simple colour scheme to allow the clothes to fit all occasions. Shepherdsons aim was to create a modern way of dressing in keeping with the heritage and culture that the Lewins had origonally created.
Taking timeless pieces like a simple tee, but adding a pocket, pop sleeves, a different collar or adding a seam is one of the most influential improvements that Shepherdson has created. Simplicity is often overlooked and underrated, but the look and feel of the brand is now clean; which has appealed undeniably to the new au