There are only three women in senior management positions on the British High street - Belinda Earl at Jaeger, Kate Bostock at M&S and Jane Shepherdson who joined Whistles from Top Shop. Shepherdson has engineered a buy-out from the Icelandic firm Baugur which hit the iceberg of the Icelandic financial collapse.
The under 25s with jobs and no mortgages, still living at home, continue to shop like it's 2005, but the over 40s are thinking much more carefully about how we spend, and it is to us that fashion is now looking. Shepherdson says:
"It's an exciting time. For years, there hasn't been anything to separate what 18-year-olds and 40-year-olds are wearing. We've all been buying the same things. But now there's a polarisation. There are things now that girls are wearing - like wet-look leggings - I couldn't possibly think of putting on. That's great, I think. Because what it's forced us to say is, what is anyone else going to wear?"
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So what does a grown woman want? "It's the same, in a way," Shepherdson insists. "We want fashion. That isn't going to go away. We want to wake up and feel there's something new we want to wear. We don't want dumbed-down stuff. Classic, basic and understated is not the way through - if you look at something like that, you think 'No, I've already got it'. What you really need is something like a new silhouette to act on."
The day after Shepherdson sealed the new deal, she did what many women do when feeling good - she went shopping, bagging two pairs of Fendi shoes in a lunchtime. In fashion, the emotional and personal is also professional opportunity. "I love this obsession with shoes," she laughs, looking down at the pointy Chloé ankle boots she's wearing under Whistles jeans. "We haven't had a chance to get into it at Whistles, but we are soon. The thing is, you can wear quite plain clothes, but all you've got to do to make it sexy and glam is put on a fierce, aggressive pair of shoes and it completely modernises it. And I think that applies at whatever age."
I think she is right about one thing. If we are going to spend we want it to be special. No duplicates, few safe classics. No half-hearted purchases. You have to feel the love.