This issue, Rebecca Moore had the chance to speak with the design duchess, a woman with whimsical charm in abundance…
Donna Wilson’s products crop up in homes across the country. The award-winning designer – who scooped an Elle Decoration British Design Award in 2010 – is known for her interior indulgences from quirky cushions to creative ceramics. Donna has now turned her expertise to childrenswear. Working in collaboration with John Lewis, the collection went on sale at the end of summer and, as you would expect, is bursting with personality, off-the-wall colours and woodland wonders. We found out more…
Can you tell us a bit more about your background, and how you got into the wonderful world of design?
I studied Textile at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen and graduated in 1999. I then got a job in a knitwear company as an assistant designer for a year. After that, I went back to college to do my MA at the Royal College of Art, where I specialised in Mixed Media Textiles, and my brand began in 2003.
John Lewis have been a big part of your journey, how did that all start?
I’ve been working with John Lewis for about six years now starting off with my homeware range. We’ve always had a great working relationship. I still remember going in for that first meeting and one of the buyers saying: “You’re probably wondering why we’ve asked you here.” It felt very surreal as it does with big department stores, but the relationship has continued to grow and they’ve been so supportive right from the start.
Tell us some more about your recent childrenswear collaboration together.
Last year one of John Lewis’ childrenswear designers, Beatrice Lubega, got in touch. We met and she suggested working together on a childrenswear line. This is something I had always wanted to do, especially after having Eli (now two), but always thought I’d do it alone because I can be quite protective over my work. But after a great meeting it just felt right. The range offers something quite different for John Lewis, like the little leggings for boys. The line has been received really well so far.
Was your son Eli a big part of the picture when you decided to cover childrenswear?
Absolutely. When this began, Eli had recently been born so I had in mind what I wanted him to wear. I’m into practical clothing, when they’re young children need to be comfy. I also love non-gender-specific clothes. And of course lots of colours, patterns and animals.
All of your collections is highly influenced by nature and animals – what wildlife steals your heart the most?
I love all animals, if I wasn’t in design I’d probably be a zookeeper. We recently moved out to Leytonstone and we’re right by allotments – I even saw a squirrel this morning. That’s probably one of my favourite animals, and foxes. We’ve also just bought a kitten, a great first pet for Eli.
Which artists and designers do you admire the most?
I like Alexander Girard, Stig Lindberg and my grandma (but she wasn’t famous!).
Outside of your London studio, where’s the best place to go for creative inspiration?
I love the countryside, and being surrounded by nature. I recently went to a small remote island off the coast of Newfoundland and came back feeling really inspired by its landscape and houses, but normally I find inspiration everywhere… a tiny piece of cloth, a picture in a book, or an object from my travels.
After a great tenth year, what has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been so many highlights since beginning in 2003 – working with a great team of people; meeting designers like Rob Ryan and Orla Kiely, and making the creatures and props for a music video for Gideon Conn. Winning the Elle Decoration British Designer of the Year award in 2010 was a fantastic achievement, and the childrenswar collaboration is a very exciting venture for me.
Find all this and much, much more in the Nov/Dec issue of Little London: on sale 24 Oct.