Celebrating 50 years in the business, the founder and creative director of Designers Guild shares her admiration for Howard Hodgkin and reminisces on receiving her OBE
When was the business founded, and why?
Our story started in 1970 on a small corner of King’s Road, where our flagship store is still based to this day. I was working as an interior designer and felt limited by the fabrics available to me; it was as though I was forever searching for a different language. It was on my first trip to India that the inspiration within me was truly ignited, so I was prompted to design my first collection of fabric and wallpaper – inspired by traditional Indian block prints but reworked in a fresher, clearer and more contemporary way. I felt that this style of decoration needed to be shown as a lifestyle – a concept that had very little meaning in the early 70s – and so I covered sofas, had cushions made, accessorised with ceramics and vintage furniture. From there, the Designers Guild story began.
How many staff?
In the beginning we had maybe four or five staff and now we’re up to 200. We have two shops in London and operate in over 80 markets worldwide.
Where are you based?
Our head office is in West London and our two stores occupy spaces on Chelsea’s King’s Road and Marylebone High Street.
What is your latest significant achievement or project of note?
One of the proudest moments was being awarded an OBE from the Queen, for services to interior design in 2008. That particular moment will stay with me for life – it was an incredible honour to be at Buckingham Palace and to be recognised for my work.
Designers Guild celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and we’ve been extremely fortunate in that the Fashion and Textile Museum in London is displaying a retrospective of our work. There will be an accompanying book, too, which charts our 50 years in design. It’s a very exciting time.
What is your favourite possession?
Priceless drawings and paintings by my granddaughter Lola.
I’ve just discovered…
We have some beautiful new artisan pieces that are sourced from all over the world in our stores at King’s Road and Marylebone High Street. From one-off ceramics and glassware to the most gorgeous Kantha and Boucherite throws, plus artworks and ornate jewellery – I’m always astonished by some of the unique finds our head of buying comes back with!
Who inspires me…
Henri Matisse, I.M Pei and Coco Chanel. Each strived to be the very best in their respective fields and were extraordinarily dextrous in their ability to relay creative vision.
I’ve always been a fan of…
The late and truly great Howard Hodgkin had the most extraordinary ability in his handling of colour. It was a language for Howard and he relayed it effortlessly. His work will always move me.
My highlight of the last 12 months…
Our exhibition, Out of the Blue, opened in February 2020 and so for the past year or so we’ve been delving in and out of the archives, rediscovering designs, reliving pivotal moments and reminiscing about everything in between, all from the past five decades! Typically I don’t like to look back; I’m much more focussed on the future, but it’s been such a privilege to reminisce.
My next design trip is to…
I’ll be travelling to Stockholm this month to promote the opening of our exhibition. The event will be held in our showroom in the city and I’ll meet and present to our Swedish customers. I like to spend as much time in the Showroom as possible when I visit; I love to see who comes in and which designs people remark at.