Searching for a private member club in London can be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. Luckily for me, I was half an hour early for my appointment with fashion designer Markus Lupfer and television presenter and model, Donna Air. Unluckily, I was escorted to meet them whilst they were halfway through eating their lunch. But ever the professional, Miss Air came to my bumbling rescue, jumping up and asking me to join them in her ever-present, soft Geordie lilt.
While some people who work in fashion can be known for their, shall we say, abrupt manner, this design duo couldn’t have been more relaxed and at ease. I was there to hear all about their brand new collaboration. The capsule collection, for girls aged four to 14 years, consists of nine pieces made up of T-shirts, sweatshirts and knitwear, and is part of the ever-expanding portfolio of Designers at Debenhams.
“It’s all about great fashion at affordable prices” says Markus, who is already world-renowned for his fantastic sequined women's knitwear. “It’s amazing what that little bit of sparkle does for your confidence,” says Donna, “I always put on my Markus jumpers and say, “a little bit of sparkle for a girl with none!” And they have a secret weapon; Donna’s nine-year-old daughter, Freya. “When I have a design idea, it’s great to be able to ask Donna whether Freya would actually want to wear it,” says Markus.
“Like most children, Freya is highly sensitive about how clothes feel and if it’s scratchy, she won’t wear it,” says Donna. Her insider knowledge has proved invaluable. “I can say things like ‘I don’t want the necklines to be too tight’, because I know that children are pulling things on and off all of the time. It needs to be easy to wear.” Donna acts as Markus’ ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground. “I’m his man in the field,” she says “I’m stalking children in the park.” When I ask about their favourite pieces, both say the penguin jumper: he certainly is an eye-catching fella. Donna adds that the ‘Cool’ and the ‘Boom’ jumpers are two of Freya’s favourites.
Cool is a pretty apt word for Markus Lupfer. The German designer graduated from London’s University of Westminster in 1997 and has been working on his own label ever since. Markus launched his first collection in 1998 quickly establishing a reputation for successfully bridging the gap between casual daywear and eveningwear.
Gaining worldwide acclaim for his humourous knitwear for women and using playful prints and embroidery over jersey daywear has earned him many a celebrity fan. Beyoncé, Madonna and Rihanna have all worn his casually cool creations and Pippa Middleton was snapped at the launch of her party planning book in one of Lupfer’s dresses. “That was very exciting. Pippa looked amazing.” Markus says, beaming.
Slogan doused, sequined knitwear, sported by every fashion editor worth her salt, exalted this humble fashion designer into the limelight. “The starting point for the graphic jumpers was “How can I transfer the playfulness of a T-shirt into knitwear?”
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