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5 MINUTES WITH... DONHALL & BELL
by Becky Elliott
Donhall & Bell was founded in 2012 to offer men a more interesting alternative to mainstream footwear. Over time, the D&B team have grown to include shoe designers, craftsmen, artists, stylists and writers – each contributing their own voice to the brand’s vision of modern masculine elegance. We spent five minutes with founders Peter and Martin to gain a better understanding of the vision behind the brand.
How did Donhall & Bell begin?
It was from a conversation Martin (Bell) and I had about how we felt British footwear brands no longer catered particularly well to 'alternative' tastes. Martin has always been in graphic design and art direction, mainly at DAZED Magazine before setting up his own London / TOKYO design agency 'Fruit Machine Design'. My own career has been very eclectic but thankfully financially fruitful, enabling me to start up my own label.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
Yes, always - my interest in fashion was why I moved up to London in the mid 90's. The fashion options at that time were amazing. I used to love shops like Hyper Hyper, The Duffer of St George, Woodhouse, American Classics, Paul Smith...when I got my first student loan at uni, I literally blew it all in one session at the Paul Smith store on Floral Street! (Whoops!)
What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?
Highest Point - right at the start I met a very prominent investor who loved our launch collection and was interested to back the brand, he even recommended us for Walpole. Lowest Point - our first factory shut down just after they manufactured our first collection. It took us an entire year to get the whole collection rebuilt by another factory. Most people would have given up - it was an awful experience!
What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
The theme was ‘Memories of a British Summer’.
Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?
Yes sometimes. London itself can seem incredibly dull some days, especially when it is raining, but my brain literally never stops thinking of new creative ideas. Martin is the filter!
Where is your go-to meeting spot?
Usually a London hotel like The Rosewood, Hamyard or The Hospital Club. I like creative meetings in nice environments!
How would you describe your customer base?
So far our biggest market has been American guys, both online and at our concession at Wolf & Badger New York. They just 'get us' and seem to be willing to take more fashion risks.
Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?
Idris Elba, Tinie Tempah, Nick Grimshaw, Mark Ronson, Pharrell Williams, Jack Guinness...cool guys, with an edge.
What are the morals you run your brand by?
The main moral we have is to be respectful and supportive to other new fashion brands.
Do you have a mentor?
No, we'd like one though...
What apps keep you sane?
Kindle App. Reading helps me switch off!
If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?
I love our latest Jermyn Loafer Slipper range (especially the Templeton Green), they are truly stand out, original loafers, and all the upper material is 100% British tweed!
What’s the biggest style mistake you’ve ever made?
Where do I start? The whole of the early 'rave' fashion from my teenage years. I've had to block it out of my memory...
Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire?
Joshua Kane! He's pushing the boundaries of sartorialism - and is clearly destined for greatness.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Never give up!
What drew you to Wolf & Badger?
Their ethos of supporting independent brands in a financial 'win-win' manner. Also the NY store was a big plus, due to our following in the US already.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
Much bigger - with apparel, accessories and jewellery, with a 'celebrity' investor on board.
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