Fashion retail industry veteran Gillian Berkmen passed away on January 28 after a long battle with cancer.

Berkmen worked her way up through the ranks to chief merchandise officer at German department store group Karstadt, becoming the first woman to hold the position at the retailer.

Her illustrious career began in 1981 when she joined Harrods as a management trainee. From there she went to the Burton Group, then to BHS as divisional buying manager, before becoming buying and merchandising director at Miss Selfridge. From there she became group buying director at Mappin & Webb in 2000 and joined Mothercare as brand and commercial director in 2003.

Industry peers described her as a “rare breed of person”, who was hugely professional, “bright, witty and a brilliant leader”.

She was described by her husband Dana Berkmen as “an inspiration to a great many people. She was professional, human, kind and compassionate with a fabulous sense of humour in the most challenging of times.

“Her sense of fun along with her terrific work ethic heightened her ability to be a mentor to those learning from her.”