Designer on a busy schedule

DEBBIE LAWSON: She will never, ever, wear Crocs.
DEBBIE LAWSON: She will never, ever, wear Crocs.

If you're stressing about there not being enough hours in the day to get everything done that needs doing, spare a thought for DEVal designer Debbie Lawson.

As well as running a busy boutique with retail stores in Dunedin and Christchurch, and designing for next season, she also recently bought the Caroline Moore (leatherwear) label and is about to relocate the factory to new premises opposite The Tannery in Woolston. Increasing demand for her own designs means she needs to create more pieces as her label is now her boutique's biggest seller.

Her latest designs, however, are a far cry from the dolls outfits that she started out making as a child. "My mum sewed so she encouraged me and I was always designing dresses for my sister's Barbie dolls," she says. When the family returned to Dunedin after living in London, Lawson says she couldn't find anything in the shops she liked so began designing clothes. "There was no variety and everyone seemed to be wearing Levis."

A teacher at St Hilda's Collegiate School recognised her talents and encouraged her to study fashion design at Otago Polytechnic while completing her high school studies. That suited Lawson because "I wasn't very good at school".

Lawson was 21 when her mother, Val died, but her mum's influence lives on in many ways, including in Lawson's label, DEVal. Her designs use leather, wool, silk and cashmere. "Everything we do is natural and will last. It looks good now and still will in three years' time. I don't believe in one season wonders."

KIM TRIEGAARDT stole five minutes from Lawson's busy schedule to ask about her style secrets.

The best style advice I ever heard was . . .

Less is more, buy quality, not quantity and think, will you wear it next season, next year and so on . . . investment dressing. Thanks Mum.

Is there one word to describe your style?


Do you divide your wardrobe into work/weekend/glam?

No, I don't divide my wardrobe, I wear whatever I feel like and what inspires me for that day.

Do you have favourite fashion pieces?

Yes, my watch, bags, scarfs and belts. I think accessories create a polished look and add individuality to your style. I love finding the right pieces to add to my DEVal wardrobe to finish a look.

What will you never wear?

Crocs. Never!

What's your opinion of today's woman?

More confident, better dressed, very busy, multi-taskers, and very hard working.

Today's man?

More aware of how they look and dress, very metro sexual. I find men are taking a lot better care of themselves and there appears to be a lot of role reversal in the household.

What's your comfort food?

Icecream, I LOVE icecream.

What is your favourite season?

Winter - I love the fabrics and the textures and all the coats, boots and scarfs, it is a lot more exciting. The winter season is more sexy and stylish.

What is the first thing you notice about people?

How they co-ordinate their outfits and their smile. I often smile at people and the way they smile back shows so much about a person.

Do you have a favourite treasure?

My mum's ring, I wear it as my engagement ring. It was worn by my grandfather's partner who died when I was 15, she was a very strong confident woman who would often tell me: "You are in charge of your own destiny." My mum wore it until she died. She was always polished and immaculately groomed, and is often my inspiration. My grandfather's next partner, Mary, then wore the ring and she was an amazing woman who taught me a lot about life when I lived with them in Australia. After she died I was ready to wear the ring myself and very rarely take it off.

Mountain hideaway or beach house?

Mountain hideaway. I love mountains and adventures, but also love island holidays. This question really tears me in two directions because I'm a beach girl also.

If it had been up to me . . .

there would be more love and compassion and no war and fighting. I can't read the newspaper or watch the news as I find it so negative and upsetting and I can't stand to start or finish the day like that.

I have a passion for . . .

Fashion, of course. Oh! And I love people.

The Press