The Wick - Fashion designers for The Telegraph Magazine The Wick - Fashion designers for The Telegraph Magazine
Monday Muse

Interview Lisou’s Rene Macdonald

Rene Macdonald
19 December 2022
Rene Macdonald
19 December 2022
A former stylist, avid vintage collector and self-confessed “bold dresser”, we can think of nobody better to head up feelgood fashion brand Lisou than Rene Macdonald. The head designer, who is proud to be both Tanzanian and a Londoner, has a unique way of combining unexpected colours and creating exclusive hand-drawn vibrant prints to make each of her pieces completely unique. It’s also helped Lisou gain a cult following for its beautiful silk pieces in the short time since it launched in 2018.

As this week’s Monday Muse, Macdonald shares how Lisou and its collections hope to be a force for good.

THE WICK:   Where did the name Lisou come from?

Rene Macdonald:   It’s my childhood nickname, given to me by my mother. It doesn’t mean anything but we later discovered it’s actually a French name.

TW:   How does your African heritage influence your designs?

RM:   All my collections are filled with colour and print, which is a direct influence from my heritage. Anyone who’s been to Africa knows that our streets are extremely colourful. We love to clash prints and colours and there aren’t any rules when it comes to what we put together. African fashion is about joy and celebration.

TW:   How does colour theory affect women and productivity?

RM:   It’s proven by psychologists that colour really does lift your mood. For instance, wearing black on a Monday begins your week in a very different way to wearing colour. It affects how others respond to you, so I always recommend wearing more muted or dark colours later in the week. Mondays are hard enough, why not approach them with colour and optimism?

TW:   Female empowerment is a large part of Lisou. How do you think clothes can have a positive influence?

RM:   Clothes speak for you. When you enter a room, it’s the first thing people notice about you. I think if you feel confident and you present yourself in the best possible light, you have more chance of achieving your aims. So be confident, feel like your best self and everything else will fall in to place. For so long, women have been encouraged to shrink themselves. An assertive woman is a diva, which is so negative. Why can’t assertiveness be seen in a positive way? If your clothes can do that, it’s a no brainer.

“The Africa Fashion exhibition at the V&A was extraordinary, not to mention a historic moment that I didn’t ever think I would see.”

TW:   With sustainability in mind, how is Lisou a change for good?

RM:   I see Lisou as so much more than a business. I feel it’s so important to make an impact if you have a platform, however small – you have a social responsibility. To that end, we run a number of initiatives on a community and global level. We plant five trees across the world for every full-price item sold, in conjunction with One Tree Planted to offset our carbon footprint. We are striving to get to zero waste, so we have team meetings where we discuss what we can do with our offcuts that would otherwise be discarded. We also work with charities in both London and Africa, as well as providing internships and work experience for young creatives. There’s so much more planned for the future because I don’t believe that anyone can get to the point of being “all done”. There will always be injustices to highlight and causes to champion.

TW:   What do you collect?

RM:   I collect vintage clothing. I absolutely love digging around looking for those treasurable pieces. Obviously, it’s also sustainable but what I really love is that the items have a story and are one-off pieces.

TW:   Fashion and art are becoming increasingly linked. What do you think the similarities are?

RM:   The most obvious similarity between art and fashion is that both are visual mediums, but on a wider scale they are also a marker of the culture and times in which we live. I would also throw in music and film. Creative arts are so important when it comes to looking at the way we live. After all, where would we be in terms of knowing how ancient civilisations lived without cave drawings?

TW:   What has been your favourite exhibition this year?

RM:   The Africa Fashion exhibition at the V&A was extraordinary, not to mention a historic moment that I didn’t ever think I would see. It still makes me smile thinking about it.

TW:   What’s your favourite culturally curious spot?

RM:   I love art galleries. I get so much inspiration from them. I am also a fan of people watching. As a child growing up in war zones across Africa, we didn’t have television, iPads, or much to entertain us, so people watching was something I always did. It was interesting to invent stories about people’s lives – where they were going and, of course, the significance of their clothes. Plus, it’s a game that works the world over.

TW:   What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and would pass on?

RM:   My parents used to say, “Nothing is impossible”, and I think that’s a really useful piece of advice. There’s always a way around a challenge. The solution may take time but the salient point is that making a start is crucial. I remind my children of this constantly.

TW:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse?

RM:   Michelle Obama. She is intelligent, elegant and the personification of fearless confidence.

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