Why did I choose to work in fashion ?
After finishing a degree in fashion and textiles NCAD Dublin, Irish designer Debbie Millington worked her way through the costume departments of Hollywood. For the past seventeen years, she has worked on various feature film productions including Star Wars and Moulin Rouge before starting her own design company. In her own words, Debbie Millington talks frankly about her idols, proudest careers moments and the importance of achieving a level of sustainability in her brand.
“From a very young age I was designing clothing, writing books and accompanying them with fantastical costumed illustrations. Influenced by some of the all time great designers such as french designer, Jean Louis, I would watch old black and white movies, idolising the exquisite costumes and on screen goddesses. I remember distinctly Rita Hayworth’s black satin strapless dress in Gilda and the sparkling nude gown that Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" in 1962. The idea of dresses being a nude colour coated with crystals, stunned audiences at the time it was so revolutionary. My grandmother was very creative and she would teach me how to make fashion pieces and miniature headdresses out of shells and pressed flowers. She taught me needlework and how to sew. In later years I studied fashion and have always stayed glued to the industry, combining it with work in costume for film and theatre.”
What is the most exciting part of working in the film industry ?
“ Working in both film and fashion allows me to combine my two loves, work and travel, giving me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and feed my desire to see the world. Movie-making opened many doors and opportunities for me, learning new skills and working alongside great talents and celebrities from stage and screen. Travel allows me to experience first hand exciting new traditions and cultures. I’m continually fascinated by ancient techniques in ethnic textile print, weave and design. I get such a buzz trawling market bazaars in pursuit of that unique vintage piece or unusual textile. ”
How have the places and stories from far away lands influenced my work and style ?
“ Everything I do and everything I am has influenced my designs and have become an amalgamation of my life’s experiences. My style and perspective on life and the way in which I see things, is totally unique to me. Each one of us is inspired by different things, and for me these inevitably find their way into my work. All my designs are inspired by personal travel stories and experiences from around the world. Before I became a mum, I travelled on my own with my backpack and a vague intention. My parents would pull out the large Atlas and follow my escapades through email and sporadic phone calls. My camera was my tool for keeping my memories safe and record everything I saw. ”
How does your working in film influence my designs and thought patterns ?
“ The costume department is always an exciting place to be. Especially interesting in the early stages of preparation, researching various costume genres and fashion eras for the script and its characters. I love the initial weeks of " hunt and gathering ", trawling fabric and haberdashery shops for interesting fabrics, braids and trims. Filling notebooks with inspiring colours, textures and ideas. Marvelling at all the wonderfully exquisite antique lace, embroideries, intricate needlework, print and woven textiles that one finds. The variety and diversity is certainly what keeps my work so stimulating with an endless constant stream of inspiration. ”
Describe my style and that of my scarf designs
“ From the earliest stages in designing for my brand, I understood something very important. There was no point in designing just another scarf. They had to be the different and an accessory that added an extra level of sophistication to ones look. Be it the lady at the races creating a look to stand out from the crowd with an elaborate silk wrap, the busy professional wanting to spruce up their power suit with a classic square or the girl in her trench and trainers who just wants to add a little pizazz to her casual jeans look with a splash of colour necktie. Either way, looking chic is part of our identity and we appreciate unique and exclusive designs that aren't available on the high street. It is important to me that my scarves become an extension of ones personality, adding that extra chic and glamour to ones dress and style. ”
What fashion designers inspire me?
“ I have always loved Zandra Rhodes who was the pioneer of printed textiles. Her feminine patterns always had an intriguing twist of character, hinting on the side of theatrical, with a wonderful use of bright bold colours and eccentric patterns. I don't really follow fashion designers as such, but I do love fashion. To wear myself I love Isabelle Marant, her tom-boyish approach to styling and her interesting mix of colour combinations and textures within one look. I also love Stella McCartney’s approach to sustainable fashion. Above all I love Colleen Atwood and her incredible reportage of costume designs, from the kimonos in Memoirs of a Geisha and the iconic designs of Johnny Depp as a clown-faced Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the cartoonish Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. “
Who is my style icon ?
“ I have always admired Iris Afpel. Her incredible style and how she puts together such unusual outfits. Her eclectic use of tribal accessories and zany layered jewellery, fur and flamboyant feathery stoles is very personal and unique to her. I love how every outfit she wears is a wonderfully mixed palette of colour, pattern, and textures. ”
What efforts have I pursued to achieve a level of sustainability in my product?
“ All designs in the DM collection are timeless classics that can be worn season after season, year after year. The brand reinforces the importance of the “considered purchase” and buying a product that offers longevity in your wardrobe. As brand designer and consumer, Debbie has always supported efforts in developing positive change in the fashion industry and one of the main concerns in the development of the brand, was the sustainability of the product and its impact on the environment and “safe” fashion. There are no tiny hands exploited at any stage in production of this product. The scarves are made by a highly reputable UK based company and not mass produced in China or India. Scarves are digitally printed onto silk using non toxic “Azo Free” dyes, biodegradable inks, recycled water and less energy and our designer gift packaging is made from 100% recycled card and paper using soy based dyes. ”
Why did I choose silk as my medium?
“ The silk scarf is such a versatile accessory and for me acts as a blank canvas to let my artistic ideas flow. I have sampled in lots of mediums, wool blends, cotton and modal mixes. But I felt the images printed so beautifully on the silk and nowadays silk is such a valuable commodity, people are valuing their purchase more. When its cotton people are more likely to send it to the charity shop or it goes to the bottom of the wardrobe. If the scarf is that bit more expensive and then people will have it forever, they choose well and consider their purchase and choose longevity over throw away fashion. ”
Do I find that I have more freedom when creating collections because my designs do not follow seasons?
“ As an emerging label, a major part of the DM brand ethos, is that the label is non season led. The collection is made up of well-designed favourite staples and ‘Hero Classics’ that can be repeated season after season and mixed with new designs that are released twice a year. This allows the designer to keep the collection fresh, interesting and ever-changing, taking the time and care with each individual design and product, to ensure the silks are of the highest standard in every way. Leaving more time to focus on what is really important - the brand, quality of design and craftsmanship.
There is something always for everyone in my collection. I have such a variety of colours and shapes that I can match according to what the stockists have at any given time and match accordingly. Everyone has a different wardrobe and outfits within the wardrobe that they need to match to. No two wardrobes are the same so no two scarves are the same. There is something to suit every style, taste and personality. Some designs are chic in gold and black, perfect for evening wear, others are punchy and bold, ideal with a jacket or jeans more casual. But I think the scarf is an extension of your own personality, so everyone will pick a different colour and style, be it the small necktie or the long narrow stole. It is whatever suits your personality best. “