10 Questions With….Mairi McDonald

1/ Tell us about your label

Mairi McDonald is luxury womenswear with a free-spirited feel and a rebellious edge. It’s an exploration of the unconventional dark beauty within key textiles, dishevelled for a rock ‘n’ roll edge with a high standard of craftsmanship. The effortless glamour of the Mairi McDonald label allows the wearer the freedom not to conform.

2/ Why did you become an independent fashion designer?

I wanted to step away from designing for other companies and channel all my energy and thoughts into developing my own aesthetic and signature. The ultimate achievement for me as a designer was to develop and launch my own label. Even with the huge risks involved I’ve trusted my instinct that I’m following the right path with this venture. I want to create luxury ‘forever’ pieces for my customers wardrobe combining beautiful fabrics, edgy textiles and intricate detail.

Mairi McDonald
Image: Designer Mairi McDonald

3/ How have your Scottish roots influenced your designs and where do you find inspiration?

Having such a strong focus on textiles and working with homegrown lace manufacturer MYB Textiles is a perfect fit and it’s great to refer to a piece as a ‘Scottish lace dress’. I’m continually inspired by iconic women in and around the music scene. The debut collection entitled ‘Electric Eclectic’ was inspired by the girlfriends of the Rolling Stones in the Sixties, Marianne Faithful and Anita Pallenberg. Kate Moss, Sky Ferreira, Alison Mosshart and Daisy Lowe are also perfect present day muses for this collection. I’m passionate about vintage fashion and creating an eclectic look by mixing influences from Victorian silhouettes and detailing with 60’s and 70’s bohemian styling. I’ve spent time trawling vintage markets in Paris and London for inspiration and this is still a starting point for my research today.


Image: Scottish ecru cotton lace and silk mix dress with crochet lace trim

4/ How would you define the Scottish fashion scene and who do you admire within the industry?

There is a growing Scottish fashion scene with an eclectic mix of established and emerging new labels. Events such as the Scottish Fashion Awards and platforms like Scotland Redesigned are hugely beneficial in terms of exposure as a new designer. This is an extremely tough industry and I have admiration for all the designers that evolve their labels seasonally and have earned their success through hard work and determination.

5/ You recently entered Stylist Magazine’s competition to become ‘Britain’s Next Maker’ which boasts a prize fund of £10,000 for your creative business. How would you spend this money if you won?

The prize fund would be completely invaluable at this stage of my business. I’ve achieved so much in a short space of time but the harsh reality is money is essential to enable me to keep pursuing my ambition and developing my label.

6/ The competition involves a public vote. Why should people feel compelled to vote for you?

I’m truly committed to fulfilling my creative vision with my luxury label, continuing to invest 110% to grow and evolve my brand into a sustainable business whilst establishing my own distinctive signature. I want to expand the brand nationally and internationally and continue to build and develop my skills in business by taking a beautiful product and creating a desirable, successful Scottish brand.


Image: Black lamb nappa, suede and silk jacket with lamb nappa tailored shorts

7/ You’ve both studied and worked in London. What career opportunities are fashion designers given in London that you’d like to see being offered in Scotland?

Studying at London College of Fashion allowed me to access the centre of Britain’s fashion industry, from having lecturers who were also designers or art directors for high profile magazines. I felt privileged to be there and treated college as on the job training. Luxury brands need to offer internships for students and jobs for graduates to allow us to feed into our own economy and capitalise on Scottish talent.

8/ You currently teach and mentor up-and-coming fashion students. If you were in charge what initiatives would you put in place to support Scottish graduates after the conclusion of their course?

There should be more funding available for fashion businesses as fashion doesn’t always fit neatly into arts or innovation funding categories which can be very frustrating. The Scottish Textiles industry is on a global high so now is the time to invest in emerging design talent with an emphasis on sustainability and exporting.

9/ What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date and how did you deal with it?

Making the transition from Senior Designer for a large label to creating my own label has been a huge test of confidence, skill and ability. To be proud of a collection that is completely designed to ‘my’ brief and not a ‘given’ brief has been so liberating.

10/ What plans do you have for your label moving into 2014?

I’m currently taking my debut collection ‘Electric Eclectic’ to market with lots of interest around this collection. My main priority over the next few months is establishing my signature in the public domain and having a look and style that is recognisably ‘Mairi McDonald’.

To vote for Mairi to win Stylist Magazine’s ‘Britain’s Next Top Maker’ competition click the link and look for the Mairi McDonald profile on the main page http://www.stylist.co.uk/home/microsite2/triumph/?page=competition

Find out more about Mairi McDonald on her website www.mairimcdonald.com