The queen of jeans and indie owner tells Marie Davies why size and age discrimination have no place in her boutiques.
A store that sells only denim is a simple idea that could have been a risky one. So what was your thinking behind it?
I’d built a career in marketing but I knew I wanted to do my own thing - it was just a matter of what. I had a bad experience buying
a pair of jeans and was telling my friend when she suggested I make that my business. It is so simple but there was nothing like it around. I began researching and writing my business plan in 2005 and opened the first store on Draycott Avenue in Chelsea in October 2006.
At that time the recession was looming, yet you seem to have been somewhat recession proof?
I didn’t know what was coming. I was in blissful ignorance, happily selling jeans. Donna Ida continued to grow through that time and I have near enough opened a store a year since 2006. We currently have four and are looking to London for another opportunity.
Who is the typical Donna Ida customer?
The core customer is aged 30 to 50. We also get the younger girl who will want the fashion brands, and a much older lady who will come to us for a solution. We tend to have a lot of referrals and returning customers. It’s all about the service; you have to make it easy for people - that is key.
Which are your best-selling brands?
J Brand will be the out and out number one because it has the basic fit so right. It’s then a toss-up for the next depending on what deliveries we get in that week. Current/Elliott, Goldsign, MiH, Paige Premium and Nobody are all up there. London girls are all about accessories - decorated shoes and a statement bag. The jeans are a foundation they want to throw on and feel confident in.
What sizes do you stock?
We start at 23 in J Brand and go up to a 34, which is a good size 16, in Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. Some stores in Chelsea refuse to stock large sizes. I don’t understand stores that are sizeist; besides it being pretentious and discriminative, you miss out on sales and sometimes women choose to wear product oversized.
You have a strict rule to only stock jeans and jeans-related product. Do you see this changing at some point?
It’s taken me years for people to stop showing me dresses. They didn’t understand that I’m only interested in jeans or product that will go with jeans, such as T- shirts and blouses. You can’t be everything to everyone, otherwise you find you totally miss your identity and end up not being part of anything.
What are you backing for spring 12?
Still colour. The brands we’ve got have really stepped it up big time in the downturn. Trends do keep going longer if they work, and colour has performed well so I imagine it coming back with enough of a difference to keep it fresh. I’m looking for a great tapered boyfriend style to offer for spring 12; it has that 1950s nonchalant beach look yet remains sexy and chic.
Who is your favourite designer?
YSL, Louis Vuitton, Stella McCartney and Chanel, but I tend to buy a lot of Miu Miu.
Whose style do you admire?
Can I pick a few? Jackie Kennedy, Brigitte Bardot [pictured], Cate Blanchett (on the red carpet only), Diane Kruger, Kate Moss, Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe.
What was your first pair of jeans?
In terms of premium denim? 7 For All Mankind. I joined the throng.
What was the last thing you bought?
Miu Miu clogs in the Sale. I would never have bought them as new season but now I love them.