Tuesday 6 August 2013

Interview with Donne Jane Hand-Made Intimates

Donna Jane
It’s quite unusual how I came to know about Donna Jane Hand Made Intimates. My Uncle who lives in Turkey had mentioned to me that his niece who is a designer has worked with performers and he thought I should check her out! And would you believe it, that niece is Donna Jane, who in fact has worked with Chrys Columbine, my friend and performer. Donna’s creations are fantastic, its great to meet a young women who believes in producing good quality garments made in the UK. Take a look for yourself and you will see!

Maribelle Spanish Knickers
Why do I do what I do? I enjoy making clothes that celebrate the female form & make Women feel good about themselves.

In-fact, my primary interest lies in the Wellbeing of Women, which can cover a whole number of issues: Physical & Mental Health, Body Confidence & Self-esteem, Fitness & Nutrition and more.

I studied Fashion Design at UWE in Bristol, before moving to London in 2008. It was here that I gained valuable experience at the well-known Corsetry and Lingerie specialist 'FairyGothMother' I was working as their In-House Designer and Studio Manager for the 'Lulu and Lush' Label.

During this time I received further training in Period Corsetry, Lingerie Design & Pattern Cutting at London College of Fashion. I am also a trained Bra Fitter.

I spent some time at a Women's empowerment charity as a Volunteer Teaching Assistant. The charity aims to improve the lives of women from grass roots communities and increase their chances of finding future employment.

I was able to share my Skills and Knowledge through Sewing classes.

My designs are focussed less on how women look (to others) and more on how they feel about themselves. Pretty, feminine & elegant fabrics have the potential to make one feel... well... just that!

Comfort is also key, and a lot of the feedback I receive is centred around the fit of my garments.  
Maribelle Beachball Knickers

Tell us about your time  working for 'FairyGothMother' as In-House Designer and Studio Manager for their own label 'Lulu and Lush'…
How did the job come about?

I was Temping as a Receptionist just around the corner from the Ritz, having freshly graduated and recently moved to London. One day, as I sat admiring the Corsets and Bustles on the FairyGothMother Website I noticed on their blog that they were advertising for Part-Time Shop Assistants.
Perfect! - I thought. And whilst it made absolutely no financial sense, I decided that I would rather be surrounded by beautiful Corsets all day and on a part-time wage than answering the phones in an office for lots of money. I just knew I would somehow make it work and secretly hoped that it would grow into a full-time position. Which it did!
I learnt so much at FairyGothMother and am very grateful for the opportunities and experiences I had as Designer and Studio Manager for Lulu and Lush. I have very fond memories of my time there.

What project that you have worked on are you most proud of?

Ooh, it’s really hard to choose one thing. There have been a few moments when I have stood back and thought ‘Wow - Well done!’
I remember being at the Photo-shoot of my first ever Lingerie collection. It was overwhelming and quite emotional. I was so excited, but also very nervous. No matter how much you prepare, you still doubt yourself at the last minute... ‘What if the clothes don’t fit the model?’, ‘What if a seam rips?’ ‘Did I remember to bring everything?’ - Those sorts of things.
There’s always a huge relief after finishing a collection, or any piece for that matter, and you see the final images from the shoot. That’s the moment you can sit back and really celebrate, saying ‘Yeah. You did good!’ … ‘Now onto the next one!’

Front view - Spike Corset without Hip Panels -
Photography - Steve Hart - Lady Beauclerk
Why did you decide to leave London and head to Bristol?

London is a great experience; I would urge every young creative to spend some time living there. I was there for 3 years and at one point it even started to feel like home. However, London moves so fast, there’s no time to think, no time to plan. I felt as though I was just living day to day, reacting to whatever came along without a clear direction. Which is a great way to live when you’re in your twenties - it’s exciting! But, I wanted to take control, make some plans and set-up a business of my own. London didn’t really allow the space for me to do that.
So now, I’m here in Bristol. A beautiful, vibrant city, which I have fallen head over heels in love with. I must admit, it took a little time to adjust to the slower pace of life and I missed London at the beginning. But I’ve been here almost 2 years now and have no regrets. Bristol is all about Community, Innovation and achieving a healthy work-life balance! Which is exactly what I need.

What is your favourite piece you have ever worked on?

My favourite piece has to be the Spike Corset for Dress Me Up and Shoot Me. Steve Hart asked me to design a corset for a creative shoot he was planning. This one involved real Knives, some Heels and a Knife throwing wheel that spins!
I really wanted to capture the essence of the Knives in my Design, which I think can be seen not only in the silhouette of the Corset, but also in the shaping of the panels.
Working with Steve was also a high point, it’s great when you collaborate with another Creative and everything just fits together.

What is a customer going to get from a Donna Jane purchase?

A Beautiful handmade garment, that has been produced with special care and attention to detail, using quality fabrics sourced from UK suppliers.

Fruity Jam Pinny -
As a result of a workshop I was asked to run in Bristol,
 available to buy on my folksy shop
Do you do you any plus size specific pieces for the more voluptuous ladies out there?

Up until Spring this year, I was working on freelance projects as Donna Jane. Designing and making Costumes and Corsets for Burlesque performers. I spent a lot time working closely with Steve from Dress Me Up and Shoot Me on a number of projects.
My Maribelle Knickers are the signalling of a new direction for Donna Jane and the label is at its’ early stages. This is the first time that customers have been able to buy Ready-to-Wear items from me, so whilst I currently don’t have any plus size specific pieces on offer, this is definitely a direction that I am keen to develop in.
My own measurements also fall under the term ‘Curvy’. And whether consciously, or unconsciously, this usually feeds into my designs.

I personally like to have the chance to see/feel/try on what I am going to buy, will you be doing any more pop up events to give people the opportunity for this or are you sticking to online all the way?

I agree, it’s nice to see items in the ‘flesh’. I plan to have a stall at the Artisan Market in Bath before the year is out, and have also identified a couple of bricks and mortar shops where I think my pieces would fit in nicely.

Would you model any of your own garments yourself?

Absolutely, I love Photo-shoots! I used to hide behind the scenes a bit, but I’ve recently discovered just how much fun it is to be in front of the camera!

Who would you love to have model for you?

I have a bit of a girl crush on ‘Scarlett O’Connor’ (Clare Bowen’s character in Nashville) Would love to do a photo-shoot with Clare as Scarlett. - I think that’d be really cute.

If you could choose a celebrity to model for you (dead or alive) who would it be?

I think it’d have to be Bjork, a strong, independent and creative woman.

Do you have any famous customers?

I had the pleasure of working on a few costumes for the lovely Chrys Columbine during my Lulu and Lush days. And as a freelancer, I made a Life-size Barbie Box for Ooh-La-Lou from the Folly Mixtures and an Emerald Costume for Ophelia Bitz. (Another proud moment, of course, was seeing Burlesque stars perform in my creations)

How would you describe your own style?

Hmm... not sure what you’d call my style. But there’s a definite theme running through my wardrobe. I’m nearly always wearing a dress, and that dress will usually be: Brightly coloured, lacy, floral or a combination of all three!

Back view - Spike Corset without Hip Panels -
Photography - Steve Hart - Lady Beauclerk
 Who is your style icon?

I’m not sure that I really have one - I tend to draw on influences all around me.
If I had to pick someone though, I’d probably say Zooey Deschanel, because she’s quite girly but in a relaxed kind of way.

Where do you love to shop?

If it’s independent and has a brightly painted shop front, I’m in! There’s a beautiful Gift Shop just down the road from me that sells handmade items from local Artists, I could spend hours in there. I also can’t resist a good Farm Shop; you’ll usually find me admiring the Fruit and Veg display. (It’s the colours you see).

Who do you turn to for inspiration, both business and style?

I am blessed with some wonderfully creative friends, just spending an afternoon with any one of them is enough to spark a few ideas. 

When you’re not busy in the design studio or hammering away at the sewing machine what do you like to do with your time?

I love nature and the great outdoors... so when I have time off I like to travel to somewhere new. The sea-side, a lake, some gardens, a forest, a village, a place where I can explore and relax.

Who would you love to have as a customer?

Themed costumes are a passion of mine, and Katy Perry has worn a few good ones... It’d be fun to design and make a costume for her I reckon.

As a young business woman what advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

‘Believe in yourself’
A little bit Cliché I know, but whilst it’s vital to ask for support and advice when you really need it, it’s also important not to rely on the opinions’ of others too much. You need to pursue your goals with conviction.

What are the best and worst things about running your own business?

Best thing: Having the freedom to try new things without having to run it past anybody else first.
Worst thing: Finding it hard to switch off. Usually a new idea will come to you at the most inconvenient moment. And when you are working with something you enjoy, the lines between work and play become quite distorted. Your home life blends into your work life and vice versa.

So what can we expect to come from you next?

You can expect to see lots more colourful Knickers in a range of new fabrics. Some beautiful matching Camisoles - perfect as a gift set or playing around the house in. And also a few one-off / limited edition pieces.
Back view - Pearl Costume designed for Dress Me Up and Shoot Me - Photography - DressMeUpandShootMe
I would like to thank Donna for her time with this interview. I hope you have enjoyed learning all about her. If you would like to check out her products for yourself click here.

1 comment:

  1. I was pleasantly suprised at the comfort,fit and look of this bra! I will buy Barely there cotton X570 bra again.
    Thank You