Jane Shepherdson, the former brand director of Topshop, is in talks with Icelandic investor Baugur to head its Whistles women's wear chain according to UK media reports today (7 December).

Shepherdson will not only take up the post as chief executive, but she will also buy a stake in the chain - which will then be demerged from Baugur's UK retail business in the New Year - says a report in Retail Week.

And she is set to be joined by former colleague Karyn Fenn, who is leaving her role as joint managing director of Topshop in January.

Whistles has 34 stores, 36 concessions and eight overseas stores, and in the year to January 2006 reported a turnover of GBP35.2m and pre-tax profits of GBP5.6m.

Baugur is said to be keen to demerge Whistles to allow it to focus on the larger brands in its Mosaic group, including Oasis and Karen Millen.

Since leaving her post at Topshop more than a year ago, amid reports of a clash with the chain's owner, billionaire Sir Philip Green, over the appointment of Kate Moss as a Topshop designer, Shepherdson has shunned a high-profile retail job.

Instead, she has been working as a non-executive director at ethical clothing brand People Tree, and as a creative advisor for Oxfam.