Rene Macdonald, former stylist and founder of the vibrant womenswear brand Lisou, is another example of how exciting and empowering female-led brands can be. This is a collection of beautifully distinctive bold and colourful prints, all designed in-house by Rene. With inclusivity for women of all ages and ethnicities, and promoting sustainability to reduce emissions, this is a brand I love! Read the full interview here where Rene talks about her inspirations, influences and challenges.
Can you tell us about Lisou and how it all began?
Lisou was founded in 2018 because I couldn’t find what I wanted to wear in terms of colour and print. We began as a silk shirt brand, and over a few years we’ve developed into a luxury womenswear brand with a lot more offerings. I’m a maximalist and lover of bold clothing with an eye for vintage. At the start I had one desk in the corner of my husband’s office – it was a truly one woman show. It has been one of my proudest moments to watch our team grow.
What are the influences for your fabrics and designs?
Lisou is an amalgamation of my Tanzanian heritage and the culture of London where I’ve lived for half of my life. We pride ourselves in bringing the best quality product to our customers. It’s all about the detail and making an item with longevity whilst injecting African joy into the mix.
What is it that makes Lisou different to other luxury clothing brands?
I’d think it’s our attention to detail and hopefully the love of what we do permeates the brand. As an independent that create all our own exclusive prints, there’s a uniqueness to our clothing. I’m lucky enough to be have an extraordinary team working alongside me. One of my most senior members started with me as an intern. Her dedication and ownership of the brand has been and continues to blow me away and make me immensely proud. The right team is crucial to success.
Can you remember the first item of clothing you designed?
I absolutely can! The first item I ever designed for Lisou is our Betty shirt, which also happens to be our bestseller. I suspect it has something to do with it being named after my mother. It brings me immense joy that her shirt is one of our staples.
One person who you would love to design an outfit for?
Michelle Obama or Beyoncé spring to mind – although I must say I’ve been bowled over by the incredible people who’ve chosen to wear Lisou. Billy Porter was quite the moment, as was Gabrielle Union. I remember having to go home and re-group! There have been so many pinch me moments.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Undoubtedly my Mama. She taught me everything I know about fashion and Lisou is a homage to her. Sadly she never got to see the existence of the brand, but she’s still very much a part of what drives me and gives the brand direction.
Accomplishment you’re most proud of?
Surviving the pandemic, Brexit and many other unprecedented challenges. We have all worked extraordinarily hard to keep our heads above water.
Hardest challenge you’ve had to face?
All of the above. It’s been a challenge to steer a business through unbelievable times. My more personal challenge has been keeping an eye on myself and not becoming over consumed by the business. I’ve been blessed with an incredible family so it’s important that I don’t miss all those precious moments.
What are the main factors women should consider when it comes to choosing a tailored outfit?
It’s all about fit – and when you find a fit that works stick with it. People are often scared of tailoring, but there’s no one that doesn’t benefit from a beautifully tailored suit. It needs to fit whilst being beautifully constructed and make you feel incredible. It’s a go to everyone should have in their wardrobe. I love that you can make a tailored suit casual by wearing trainers and smart by wearing a heel.
Do you think age still influences our fashion choices, as it has with previous generations, or are we becoming bolder and embracing individual style and choice?
Not at all. Why should age be an impediment to anything? That’s a very narrow way of thinking. Iris Apfel should be an example to us all. If the clothes make you feel fabulous then knock yourself out. In the past I think there were definitely shops for different age groups, but I think those days are long gone. Do I feel comfortable in a bralette? Why not – it’s all about how you style it.
What would you say to midlife and beyond women who begin to feel invisible and less confident with age?
Just because society puts you in that box it doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Fashion should be fun and joyous no matter your age. One of the many beauties of age is that you grow in confidence and you know your body better. Wear what makes you feel great, and wear colour and print because that in itself not only makes you feel confident and fabulous, it also makes everyone you interact with happier. We can be bolder, cerebral and elegant at any age. Use your experience and wisdom as a right to dress however you want to; you’ve earned it!
One wardrobe staple you cannot be without?
Besides my own designs, I love shoes and accessories. I’ve been lucky enough to have been gifted some incredible pieces and I think accessories/shoes can just finish off an outfit beautifully. It’s also the pieces that have been given to me that are infused with love and have a memory. That includes my wedding ring and beautiful charms given to me by my children. I wear my Mama’s gold bracelets every day and it feels like I carry her with me always.
And finally, your greatest quote to live by?
My father used to say: be kind, work hard and follow your dreams without limits. After all, you only get one life so make the most of it.