Global Young Designer Spotlight: Lisou

Combining elements of Tanzanian street art with European silhouettes, Lisou’s designs reflect creative director Rene Macdonald’s multicultural childhood. She lets us in on her West London hangouts and what it means to be a bold dresser.

up, Lisou’s creative director Rene Macdonald lived all
over Africa – her family home being based everywhere from Zanzibar
to Tanzania. Her formative years on the continent have had a
lasting effect on her design, manifesting in the colourful silks
and punchy prints she designs in-house.

Combining elements of Tanzanian street art with European
silhouettes, Lisou’s vibrant garments have attracted wearers as
wondersome as Dame Helen Mirren, Jodie Comer and Cate

Here, the self-confessed bold dresser shares her brand story and
design inspirations, her favourite West London hangouts and
discusses the charitable wing of her brand that directly helps
young Africans with medical and educational needs.

Brand: Lisou

Designer: Rene MacDonald

Origins: British, Tanzanian

Homebase: London

Stockists: Harvey Nichols, The
Shop at Bluebird
, Etoile (Dubai) and many more across the globe
as well as our own shop in Notting Hill.

Who is the Lisou customer?

Anyone who loves colour and print, and has a strong sense of
individuality. We have customers ranging from 19 to 70 years old.
For example, this year Lisou has been seen on both Emma Roberts and
Dame Helen Mirren.

Tell us about your earliest fashion memory.

Making clothes with my mother and watching her dress up in
beautiful chiffon dresses. I just wanted to be a grown up so I
could emulate her style.

Describe your aesthetic…

I have a love for anything that inspires me, it could be
something beautiful, mundane or unusual, so long as it provokes a
reaction in me.

What does your creative process look like?

I usually start with designing a print and then move onto
silhouettes. This mostly takes place on weekends with lots of loud
disco music.

Where is your studio and what does it look like?

My studio is in West London. It’s a big open-plan room with lots
of light – all of team Lisou work from here. There are fabric
swatches, ideas and lots of colouring pens on my desk. I often
leave with pen marks all over my hands like a primary-school

What are some must-visit lunchtime and post-work spots in the

I’m a fan of E&O on Blenheim Crescent; it makes the best
chilli-salt squid. Golborne Deli is a regular for
lunchtime takeaways. Post work, Electric Diner on Portobello Road is fun for drinks
and I always seem to bump into someone I know which can lead to
interesting, impromptu nights out.

What songs do you have on repeat in your studio?

I’m a complete soul, R&B and hip-hop girl. Generally, it’s
something upbeat like Earth, Wind and Fire’s Let’s Groove.
Basically anything that gives me an excuse to sing and dance around
the studio.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

I find inspiration all around me. It could be a flower in the
park or something I see on my travels. I once found the perfect
shade of yellow on the wall of an art gallery.

Where do you source your silks?

Our silk is sourced in India, Japan and China and we use a lot
of recycled silk. There are so many interesting developments in the
world of silk, such as spider silk, which are all things I keep an
eye out for.

Shop your own line. What are three of your favourite Lisou

My favourite three Lisou pieces from AW19 are:

1. The Penelope pussy bow silk midi dress in pale blue comet

2. The Bailey shirt in Lisou blue and mango star print.

3. Lisou’s high-rise velvet Hetty trousers in midnight blue.

You’re a self-professed “bold dresser”. What advice do you have
for those who want to follow suit?

Be confident and don’t let the clothes wear you. It’s all about
attitude, if you feel comfortable and confident you can carry
anything off. I’d also say don’t be afraid to experiment. Plus,
colour makes everyone feel happy especially during the grey winter
days – so while you’re being bold you’re probably also making
someone smile.

How does travel influence your work?

What I love about travel is drinking in all the things I see. I
recently designed a print using a technique inspired by a trip to

Where is your favourite place in the world and why?

I’d have to say Ibiza.
Largely, because it’s the one time I get all my family and friends
together in one place. The role of matriarch fills my heart with

You grew up in Tanzania. Tell us some “musts” for planning a
vacation there…

I actually grew up all over Africa because of my parents’ jobs.
Tanzania has the best national parks, and a trip to the Serengeti
is unforgettable. Zanzibar is as enchanting as it sounds; it smells
of exotic spices and has extraordinary architecture. The night
markets there are a great place for street food. Arusha, a city in
northern Tanzania is worth a visit for the open-air market which
sells local art, jewellery and fabrics. Arusha also has a clock
tower that marks the midpoint between Cairo and Cape Town.

Tell us about how you, as a brand, give back…

We run several charitable initiatives at Lisou. The first is a
project that helps young Tanzanians with medical and educational
needs. I was very keen to do something on a local level too, so we
set up a school textile competition for state primary and secondary
schools. The winners had their designs made into silk scarves from
which all the sale proceeds went back into the art departments of
the winning schools.

Three destinations on your travel wishlist…

Cuba, New Orleans and Ghana.

What’s your go-to airport outfit?

I love our silk Machi Machi sets. They’re as comfortable as
pyjamas and can be smartened up on arrival by tucking the shirt
into the high waisted trouser. My favourite iteration is the

What are you reading right now?

I always read more than one book at a time. At the moment it’s
Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers and Chimamanda Ngozi
Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck.

What podcasts are you listening to?

I’m a massive fan of TED podcasts.

What’s next for Lisou?

Hopefully, growth and development while continuing to make
beautiful clothes and having fun along the way!

Discover More
A Long Weekend in Zanzibar, Tanzania