For anyone who knows anything about fashion, Donna Ida Thornton will be a woman who needs no introduction. Since opening her first boutique back in 2006, Donna has opened three further stores in the London, an international online denim emporium and gathered a legion of denim-loving devotees. As a newly converted denim addict, I’m currently a little obsessed with Donna Ida – the store and, I’ll admit, the person – so I was thrilled to quiz London’s reigning ‘Queen of Jeans’ on personal style, denim trends and how she built her business…
LPA: What were you doing before you started Donna Ida? Have you always worked in fashion?
DA: I’ve always been interested in fashion and I know what I like. I was working in Marketing in London before I started Donna Ida.
LPA: What prompted you to launch Donna Ida in 2006? Starting up your own business was an incredibly bold move. Did you feel fairly confident that it was going to take off?
DA: I launched Donna Ida because I couldn’t find anywhere to buy jeans that I felt truly comfortable in. Department stores have a great selection but I couldn’t get the service I needed and I was paranoid I wouldn’t be able to get them up over my thighs and would have to get dressed and go out looking for more sizes myself. Which usually did happen. I believe that if you work hard you can make anything happen, so I’ve always been confident that Donna Ida would be a success.
LPA: Despite the disastrous effects of the recession on so many other businesses, Donna Ida has been incredibly successful and grown hugely over the past few years. What do you think has been the key to your company’s success?
DA: Service; whether it is online or offline we want to make sure that shopping for jeans is a great experience. All the Donna Ida girls receive regular training which ensures our advisors are denim experts.
LPA: As someone renowned for helping women wear denim well, you must feel under pressure to always look good yourself. What’s your failsafe outfit formula?
DA: Skinny jeans, a basic silk tee and a blazer. Plus heels, no less than 5 inches! I also like accessories, a good handbag and jewellery always make me feel pulled together.
LPA: Which has been your favourite and least favourite trend for SS12?
DA: Neon has been so big for SS12 and it’s continuing through to SS13 too. It’s the Isabel Marant effect, and is clearly in evidence across a lot of brands! Least favourite? I don’t really have one, I like little bit of everything, and as long as you’re confident and happy with what you’re wearing then that’s ok by me.
LPA: Printed and bright denim is everywhere this season, but can everyone really wear these tricky styles? Should certain body types steer clear of certain colours or cuts?
DA: Everyone can wear prints and coloured denim. It’s the same rules as buying any style of jeans, there is a style to suit each body type. Some women even find coloured denim the most flattering and prints can hide a multitude of sins.
LPA: Would you recommend that someone who wanted to work in the fashion industry study it at university? Or do you feel it’s better to gain experience through interning instead?
DA: It depends what you are like as a person. University can expose students to a wealth or knowledge and volunteering at different companies can demonstrate the day-to-day running of a business and help you understand the areas you are most attracted to. For me university was never an option – I got out of school and into work as quick as I could. It would have meant I was years behind where I wanted to be, but everyone’s different.
LPA: What advice would you give to someone hoping to launch their own company?
DA: Work hard, keep your head down in the early days and solve one problem at a time. Don’t look up at the whole terrifying mountain, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and make some progress every day. Grab what sleep you can and drink plenty of coffee the rest of the time.
Love Ella. X