After years as a textile designer, working with prestigious companies, Donna Gorman was ready to start a collection of her own. In 2008, she combined her vision, love of pattern, passion for travel and beauty, into accessible everyday objects and founded See Design.
She channeled her personal aesthetic to create the colorful hand-painted designs synonymous with the brand. She personally took them to India to manufacture into beautiful lifestyle products, including bags, wallets, apparel, scarves and pillow covers.
Donna’s innovative work has earned her tremendous recognition within the design world, gracing products by some of the best names in contemporary design like Target, Crate & Barrel and Marimekko. She has gotten press in leading style publications such as Metropolitan Home, Country Living, Cookie, Hauser, and Abitare.
At Peach, we’ve made it our mission to provide women with the opportunity to launch their own fashion businesses and help us build the next big athleisure brand. We knew that this season’s Featured Entrepreneur, needed to be a girl boss who had built a successful brand of her own, too – Donna Gorman couldn’t have been a better fit! We’re excited to feature four See Design accessories exclusively designed for Peach’s summer 2019 Blue Crush collection.
We were honored to have the chance to connect with this acclaimed female designer and the founder to hear more about her journey from Vice President of Licensing and Design at Marimekko, to building a successful brand of her own.
What sparked your interest in wanting to start your own business?
I have been self-employed since about 1990, when I stopped working full time for Marimekko. I did end up keeping them as a client, but that’s when I really started investing the time in developing my own collections. As a designer, it’s tough to work for one company, even if you have a strong alliance with their aesthetic. You can never really be satisfied until you do your own work.
Where do you look for inspiration when creating your hand-made prints?
Inspiration truly comes from all over. I can always find inspiration from nature and society though. I’ve also always had a strong attraction to modern and Scandinavian design – simplicity is so important to me. Peach’s Blue Crush summer collection is graphic and simple, so I wanted the accessory designs to really compliment the wearer; enhancing the look, without overwhelming it. The patterns are textural but have an energy about them.
What things do you surround yourself with to keep focused and inspired throughout the creative process?
I have an amazing studio in my home. It’s very modern, clean and white- perfect for clear thinking and looking at color! I can paint, draw and develop patterns on a clean slate. I also use inspiration boards to play with new ideas.
How many prints do you typically create before you land on one you think will really respond well with consumers?
This is a great question. As a professional, I can definitely pump out patterns if I have to. However, with See Design, I really like to take the time to let the collections and patterns evolve in my mind. When I paint them, I can usually tell immediately, if it is something that works. I find that when I second guess myself or design to what I think people will like, I usually end up with something awkward. My collections have a strong aesthetic and not all consumers are going to respond to all patterns- but the people who love it, love it. I don’t try to appeal to everyone, I try to stand for something.
Your work seems to be very present in your everyday life. With that in mind, what does work-life balance mean to you?
Work life balance is very important, but I think most artists and designers live their work. It’s not a bad thing though! I really do love my designs and until you take the time to really use the product, whether it’s a bag or a pillow, until you really use a product, you can’t really know how it integrates into people’s worlds. Plus, being able to develop my esthetic and integrate it into all aspects of my life, brings me a lot of pleasure.
What is the project or accomplishment that you consider most significant in your career?
This is a really hard question since I’ve done so many products and collections over the years. Something that jumps out to me is the design I have in a permanent collection at Museum of Design in Munich Germany. It’s a pattern I designed for Marimekko that was for bedding- I’m proud of that, but I love the newest things too, I always get excited when a new collection comes out. I also recently designed and curated a show for a local museum. Using creative energy really motivates me. Hopefully, I haven’t done my best work, yet!
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow the same path and branch out into entrepreneurship?
Be prepared to work harder than you ever have in your life! In a small business you’ll have to do everything, even things outside of your comfort zone – so be ready to wear multiple hats. Most importantly, stay confident and true to your ideas; it’s too easy to get swayed over with lots of opinions.
Shop our collection of See Design bags here.
Shop our latest Peach collection here.