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Markus Lupfer and Donna Air: Two of a fashionable kind

Exclusive: We talk to Markus Lupfer and Donna Air as they discuss their Designers at Debenhams girlswear collection

Donna Air and Markus Lupfer
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Donna Air and Markus Lupfer Donna and Markus Lupfer Debenhams

It all started with a, now famous, lip design as worn by celebrities including Liz Hurley and Christina Aguilera. Since then, Markus has been involved in successful collaborations with brands including Topshop and a winter 2012/13 womenswear collection with high street fashion label, Whistles.

“One thing I’ve always loved about Markus’ clothes,” says Donna, “is that whatever he does, you really want to wear this stuff, not just have it hanging in your cupboard. His designs are so wearable, pretty much for any occasion, you can wear it day or night.” The same wear-anytime principle applies to the girls’ collection. “Freya can wear one of the jumpers with jeans to the supermarket, or with a skirt to a red carpet event,” Donna says. “You don’t have to go home and change, you can just carry on, which as a mummy in a hurry, is great. It saves a lot of time.”

As proud uncle to several nieces and nephews, Markus enjoys encouraging them to express themselves. “I think it is really important to let children’s minds overflow with creativity,” says Markus. Donna’s daughter, Freya, cuts up her own clothes and designing her own T-shirts. Perhaps something we may see in a future Markus and Donna collection? “All I’ll say, is that we know children like to be bold with designing their own T-shirts - so watch this space!” says Donna.

With their first girlswear collection in the bag, they are considering moving into boyswear – although nothing has been confirmed. “We wanted to start slow and expand gradually,” says Markus. “Girlswear is the obvious starting point for the brand,” says Donna “but from what other parents tell me, there is a possible gap in the boyswear market.”

As a child, Markus shied away from smart clothing preferring a more casual look. “I remember not ever wanting to wear my Sunday best,” says Markus. “I always wanted to wear my old clothes and I cried when I was made to wear anything else. I was always up in a tree.” It was a simple, country upbringing for this tree-climbing boy, growing up in a small mountain village in Germany. “Family life was very protected, very simple and very family-orientated. School finished at lunchtime, we did our homework and then played. We lived in the middle of nowhere, in the countryside, so it was all very innocent.”

With his apparent lack of interest in fashion as a child, and desire to only wear clothes fit for play, Markus is unsure when that all changed. When he was about 16, however, he decided to put together a small fashion portfolio and sent it to international fashion houses, including Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. “Some replied, but I can’t remember who. They all advised me to go to college first! From that moment, I knew that working in fashion was all I wanted to do,” he says.

“Markus has great business acumen combined with creative flair,” says Donna. “Imaginative types often get accused of not being able to do both.” Creativity obviously runs in Donna’s family as her sister, Francesca, is currently working for Jaeger. “I have seen first hand what a slog it is working in fashion design,” says Donna, “and it was one of the reasons I chose not to work on a collection by myself, because I didn’t want to just pass myself off as a designer.” Donna says. “I can totally appreciate the work and effort that goes into the training.”

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