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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 and Markus' girlswear collection at Designers at Debenhams
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Donna and Markus' girlswear collection at Designers at Debenhams Donna and Markus Lupfer Debenhams

Freya is surrounded by a bevvy of hard-working creative women, then. “We all multi-task in our household, and somehow, whatever the weather we all pull together,” says Donna, “Freya is now becoming a solid helper in that team!” She has already informed Donna mother that she wants to sing and dance and will be moving to New York when she turns 14. “I think she has been more excited about me doing this than anything ever before and she thinks Markus is so cool,” says Donna. “This is the first time that she thinks that her mother may be cool. Because up until I worked with Markus, I just wasn’t!”

Although Markus has seen some of the most famous women in the world wearing his creations, it will be a special thrill to see an array of girls wearing this new collection. “We would be flattered to see all kinds of children wearing our label,” says Markus. “For me to see a child in the park, wearing one of our jumpers would be a huge compliment. It is great to have celebrities wearing your brand but we have created this to be accessible. It’s not about being exclusive - it is for real children.” The gorgeous girls collection is competitively priced. T-shirts are £12, sweatshirts are £18 and knitwear pieces are £22.

Unlike Markus, Donna was very particular about what she would wear as a child. “I was very obsessive about my clothes being neat,” she says. “I wouldn’t even allow a crease in my sock. I was pretty high-maintenance, which is funny now because I don’t give a hoot as to what I look like and walk around with toothpaste on my jeans!” She does, of course, look great today in a pair of skinny dark red jeans and cream jumper – simple but chic.

Home and work life for Donna is usually frantic, so she enjoys the quiet moments when she and Freya get to do very little. “I love just getting time to spend at home where I can be calm, not running round like a lunatic and just have a chat,” she says. “I like walking to school with Freya, playing in the park at the weekend with our dog, taking time to relax together and lying in bed watching TV. We read a lot together, we read lots of poetry and we like Roald Dahl.”

Freya clearly has a wicked sense of humour, which was displayed recently when she hacked into her mother’s Twitter account tweeting ‘I took mummy's phone he he.’“She does remind me so much of me,” says Donna who shot to fame first in the teenage drama, Byker Grove, alongside fellow Geordies, Ant and Dec. “She loves singing and dancing and is desperate to perform. She has my enthusiasm to take things head on.”

Having been an actress, singer, model, mother and now designer, Donna admits to feeling she has to tick certain boxes. “I feel the need to be fulfilled creatively, the desire to work and provide for my family, to do something that is stimulating,” she says. Donna can certainly feel proud of her project with Markus. “When you have a family, you want to build things that are a bit more stable. This is a business that Markus and I can steer, rather than a business that steers us.”

Not content with just working in fashion design, Donna has also recently been working with an architect to design her own house and hints at a possibility of getting involved with property development in a bigger way. Her enthusiasm and determination seems to make a success of whatever she touches and the latest child-sized fashion venture is no exception.

 “It’s obvious that Markus’ strong branding extends to so many things, and childrenswear is one of those things,” Donna says. “Having been firm friends for a few years, we thought that working on something together would be fabulous,” Markus chips in. Donna leads most of the conversation but Markus definitely has a twinkle in his eye, which sparkles as brightly as his sequined knitwear when he talks about his designs.

“I appreciate what it’s like to have so much on your plate, so I’ve always said to Markus, download as much as you can onto me because he is very much in demand,” says Donna. Too true. Not only is Markus currently working on collections for Debenhams and Whistles, he has also created a leather womenswear collection for ASOS. Now certainly seems like the time to snap up a piece of this of-the-moment designer for the little girls in your life. “Bold, pop art style images have become so popular now,” Markus says. “But it was Markus that started it,” Donna points out. “He’s like the red soled shoe of image knits.”

Shop the Donna and Markus girlswear collection online and instore, now


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