The talented designer looks to her rock ‘n’ roll heroines when creating a signature look for her womenswear range.
Scottish-born Mairi McDonald cut her teeth and her earliest patterns) at London College of Fashion studying womenswear. While learning her trade, she undertook an internship with Julien Macdonald, working on pieces for models such as Naomi Campbell and Kylie Minogue, before gaining further experience with Givenchy. After graduating in 2004, she continued to master her craft across menswear, womenswear and textiles. Now the 33-year-old is going it alone with her own label.
Tell us about the Mairi McDonald label.
I don’t design seasonal collections; I create stories and each story becomes a new addition to the signature line. The result is cool investment pieces and the overall look is dishevelled with a rock ‘n’ roll edge.
It’s been a whirlwind past 12 months or so for you. Talk us through what’s gone on.
I was awarded the Scotland Re:Designed New Talent Award in late 2013, then launched to the trade in London at Scoop in January 2014. I picked up Drapers Independents award-winning womenswear boutique Jane Davidson in Edinburgh and Wolf & Badger in Notting Hill as stockists. Our firstLondon Fashion Week showcase with Fashion Scout, a Scottish Fashion Awards Young Designer of the Year nomination and MTV filming me in my studio during the MTV Europe Music Awards all followed quickly after.
One of your inspirations is women in the music industry. Tell us more.
I’m always inspired by women in and around the music scene. My debut story, Electric Eclectic, in 2013 was inspired by the girlfriends of the Rolling Stones in the 1960s: Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg. The other story, Queens of Noise, which followed in 2014, describes women taking their place in the male-dominated world of rock ‘n’ roll. The Runaways were an all-female rock group who exploded onto the scene in the late 1970s. Their look comprised tailored androgyny and all-out femininity. Both ranges include dresses, jackets, tops, shorts and skirts in luxury fabrics such as soft lamb nappa, suede and Scottish lace. Wholesale prices range from £80 for a digitally printed silk T-shirt to £650 for bespoke knitwear.
How does running your own brand compare with working for other people?
It’s liberating to now design to my own brief after years of creating for other brands and labels. I’m creating my own brand signature, which is exciting. There is obviously a huge amount involved daily in running your own label. It’s just about embracing all aspects and enjoying the journey.
You worked with MTV on the Europe Music Awards. Tell us about that.
The event’s sponsor, Essence, picked me out as an emerging designer to discuss my brand on film in my studio with new British singer Jess Glynne in association with the MTV Europe Music Awards, which took place in Glasgow. Jess is an amazing talent. She just won a Grammy and it was great to see her select her favourite styles: the Cherrybomb lamb nappa pinafore and the Jett leather and knitted striped suede dress.
Who would you most like to dress?
I’d love to create an exclusive outfit for an iconic frontwoman, such as Florence and the Machine singer Florence Welch to wear on stage.
Where do you do most of your designing?
My studio. The building in Glasgow has a New York loft feel, light and spacious with lots of creatives around, and it has quite a liberating bohemian feel. I don’t do nine to five and I love that. It’s easy for me to be inspired there. I like having my own space to develop ideas and then working with my team to bring those ideas to life.
What is your favourite piece that you’ve designed?
The Pop deep V-neck leather and crochet chevron tunic dress from the Queens of Noise collection. It’s a contemporary take on 1970s textiles and was a labour of love.
Do you think there is a relation between your personal style and your designs?
You have to reflect your own personality and style in what you create. I have a laid-back approach to dressing. I wear lots of black, mixed with vintage styling and 1990s grunge minimalism. I adore intricate detailing and textures.
What’s next for Mairi McDonald in 2015?
Paris Fashion Week. We will be showing within the Trace showroom from March 5 to 19 at Rue de Lesdiguières. It will be our first time in Paris, following a successful Fashion Scout showcase during London Fashion Week in September 2014. LFW was an unbelievable experience and is an important platform for the label.
What is the ultimate aim for the brand?
To continue expanding, showcasing nationally and internationally and securing key stockists. I’m committed to growing and evolving my brand, establishing its distinctive signature.
What are your interests outside of fashion?
Discovering new bands, travel, trawling vintage markets for inspiration, meditation, writing and coffee.