Meet the Maker: Donna May London

We speak to Donna May, Head of Makeup at ITV for Loose Women and Lorraine and founder of Donna May London. She speaks to us all about creating her own brand of beauty accessories and shares how lockdown has changed her approach to business.

Tell us about your background

I always knew that I wanted to work in fashion and makeup. When I was younger, I was always drawing faces and adding makeup to them!

It was while I was at secondary school that I found out about the London College of Fashion and that was my goal. It was everything that I worked towards and successfully got onto a course studying fashion promotion and media – it gave me an insight into everything.

I also did a two-year course on hair and makeup for TV. I was always trying to get work experience and was offered an opportunity at the ITV wardrobe department. It was during this time that the Head of Wardrobe approached me and asked if I was any good at makeup. She wanted me to be her first protégé who could do hair, makeup and wardrobe. I’ve been there ever since!

When Loose Women first started, I was doing all sorts. I’d be ironing the girls’ clothes, as well as doing their hair and makeup! Over the years, the team has gradually become bigger. I’ve now been there for 22 years, working my way up to be the Head of Makeup.

How did Donna May London start?

I had to take time off work for a foot operation and had to sit down for six weeks. I got my embroidery out and started sewing. It was here that I came up with the lip design for what is now my logo. I initially just made it into a wash bag for my friend.

I also made a mat for my makeup to sit on at work. Makeup artists normally put everything on a towel. Once I was back at work, people saw me using it and wanted me to make them one too. It went from there!

I set up the website with two products to begin with, one of which was the makeup bag. The idea for this design came about because you can never find anything in a makeup bag! With this one, you can spread everything out on the table so that you can see it, while the drawstring quickly pulls everything together once more.

It was a real family affair to start with. I’d go out and find the fabric I wanted to use, and I’d cut it to size with my mother. I then found a group of retired women who could hem the bags for me. After this I’d take them to an embroidery shop to have the lip logo sewn on. My family packaged the products to send out, but it soon got too much and I had to outsource to a factory.

What other products do you sell?

We’ve recently started selling beauty bars. I’ve been trying to find something that gets rid of all the different bottles you have on your shelf in your bathroom. Each of these bars offer support for different skin conditions – we have 12 different options now.

Being a makeup artist, I wanted to create products that can help soothe the most common skin problems that I come across. I work closely with the manufacturers to choose the best ingredients for each bar.

How has lockdown impacted your business?

Since lockdown came along, I’ve not been working in London. Instead, I’ve been giving a lot of makeup tips over the phone to some of the presenters! I’m due back in September and I can’t wait to get back to it.

While I miss it, not travelling to and from London each day has saved me at least four hours of commuting. This has given me loads of time to put into the business. As a result, we’ve really grown over lockdown. Thankfully, people still want to shop.

We’ve recently started selling face coverings too, with the lipstick logo. They sold out in a week!

I’ve also been spending more time on social media, sharing makeup tips and tricks. The celebrity lifestyle often seems unattainable, but there’s nothing magical about it. It’s just knowing what to do. I’m all about showing women what goes on behind the scenes. We can all look just as good as the celebrities – it’s not how much money you spend on products, it’s knowing how to use them. A few little tricks can transform your look.

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