Inspiration: Beneath the Surface

Fine Prints

Meet fashion designer Duro Olowu, the prince
of prints, and see how his makeup collaboration
with Estée Lauder came together.

For me it’s a collage—it’s a collage of life, it’s a collage of love, but also of pattern.” That’s how designer Duro Olowu describes his signature technique for creating standout pieces for women, but also his approach to developing his first-ever beauty collaboration. The collection of six customized makeup products was curated in partnership with the Nigerian-born, London-based designer, and inspired by his own effortlessly stylish clothing collections, which celebrate freedom of expression, individuality, and the strong, confident woman who wears them.

In the video above, Estée Model Anok Yai pays a visit to Duro’s London atelier to create two makeup looks based on two of his favorite pieces. Watch the video above to see what a blast they had together, then read on to learn more about Duro and the collection.

Where do you get the inspiration for your prints?
My prints are inspired by my Nigerian, Jamaican, and British backgrounds, as well as my love of art. Over the years, I have developed a curatorial and enthusiastic knowledge of historic and contemporary fabrics and textiles from all over the world. The mixing and draping of printed fabrics and textiles is something I have been exposed to all my life in the places I have lived or on my travels. It has been a signature of my womenswear collections from the very beginning and remains an integral part of my work. Fabrics always tell a story, and, when mixed well, exude the kind of joie de vivre and allure I am constantly inspired by.

Can you describe the process for how you bring that inspiration to life in fabric?
The process comes together quite quickly. I start with small, playful but precise illustrations and sketches, which I then transform into varied larger patterns and prints. I then refine and select from them, depending on the theme of the collection I am preparing to show. The color palettes of my prints are often by inspired art and artists, including Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Henri Matisse, Alma Thomas, Robert Rauschenberg, Alice Neel, Chris Ofili, Édouard Vuillard, El Anatsui, Lee Krasner and Toyin Ojih Odutola.

Sometimes you just need to allow inspiration to find you—wherever in the world it may be.

Can you describe what the process of creating a makeup collection was like for you? How did it compare to your process for designing a fashion collection?
It was rather organic and a lot of fun. I started by designing the packaging—slashing and mixing my prints from previous collections in a playful yet directional way. [These past prints] also inspired the colors and shades of the full range.

How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
International chic.

How has your aesthetic evolved over time?
Being trendy has never been of interest to me. I am interested in the culture of style and have always sought to create pieces that effortlessly stand the test of time. Most importantly, I design clothes to make women feel confident, alluring, and good in their own skin. What continues to evolve is the way I think about the needs of women in all of their amazing shades and body types. This is what is inspiring, and sometimes you just need to allow that inspiration to find you—wherever in the world that may be.

I wanted to create makeup that appealed to a variety of different ethnicities and ages. The process was a huge learning experience, and Estée Lauder was the perfect collaborator and great fun to work with. Creating the Estée x Duro collection has allowed me to share my international sensibility of style, and design in a way which is both imaginative and rather thrilling.

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