Barbara Horspool, the outgoing group design director at New Look, will build on Oasis’ feminine and contemporary handwriting when she joins the young fashion chain as design director in the summer.

It emerged this week that Horspool, the driving force behind New Look’s fashion credentials, had quit the value retailer after agreeing to join Oasis.

Her decision came before a shake-up of troubled New Look’s buying, merchandising and design function with the appointment of former Primark buying and merchandising director Julian Kilmartin as group buying director for clothing, leading to the ousting of New Look veteran of 21 years Roger Wightman.

Horspool, a former Marks & Spencer head of womenswear design, will build on the repositioning of Oasis towards a more feminine handwriting, a process that began last year and was spearheaded by Oasis creative director Nadia Jones and overseen by Derek Lovelock, chairman of Aurora Fashions, the group that owns the chain as well as Karen Millen, Coast and Warehouse.

Jones, who has worked at Oasis for 14 years, will continue to work as a consultant for the retailer, and has been pursuing a number of personal projects in recent months.

Oasis managing director Liz Evans said: “Nadia and the team have worked really hard to re-establish [Oasis’] handwriting and Barbara will come in and build on that. The Oasis values are ‘femininity’ and ‘contemporary’. Barbara has a feminine handwriting. She will combine those values with our affordable aspiration positioning.”

Horspool’s departure from New Look will be a blow to the chain, which has suffered a fall off in sales in the latter half of 2010.

Only Carolyn MacKenzie, New Look’s group head of merchandising, remains from the original buying, merchandising and design team lined up in May 2008 as part of New Look’s management reshuffle that saw Carl McPhail became chief executive.

Horspool joined New Look in March 2007 as trend director to handle the creative direction of womenswear and kidswear. She has also worked for Etam, Esprit, Dorothy Perkins and Bhs.