Interview with Gisela Graham

Describe yourself in a 5 words.

A well-organised and anxious perfectionist

What inspires you?

Anything: current fashions; the sets or costumes of an opera or play; a memory of childhood; a book or magazine; a visit to a stately home; foreign tourism; museums and art galleries

I’m good at…

Seeing a task through from beginning to end

I’m bad at…


What are the highlights of your career thus far?

Creating the business and making it grow

What are your goals for the next 5 years?

Making the business grow bigger

What do you enjoy most about working in the interior design industry?

Once in a while I create, or am instrumental in creating , something really new. I like to think of my products being in people’s homes and giving them pleasure.

How did you develop the concept for Gisela Graham? Can you explain how Gisela Graham was started and what your role entails?

From Childhood I always wanted a shop. I like craft and I like to be occupied. With two small children at home I had to invent a business which would fit them in. It started with a doll’s house I designed , which was made by out-workers. It meant ferrying components and paint all over London in a 2CV.

Now I’m the Creative Director and Managing Director. We have a staff of about 60. I oversee all creative development , product selection and purchasing, and our displays at trade fairs and our showroom. I delegate operational responsibility for other aspects s of the business but in the end I am in charge of everything.

What has been the most exciting collaboration you’ve worked on so far?

It gives me a real  buzz when I see our products in really good shops and shoppers choosing them and putting them into their baskets. I feel I am, or rather our company is, getting better and better. Some of the ranges that we’ll be introducing in 2014 are the best we’ve ever done.

Are there any areas that are particularly difficult or challenging?

Managing to unwind after work or on holiday

What do you believe sets you and Gisela Graham apart from your competitors? What are you working on at the moment?

In the Christmas business we’re among one of small handful of companies in the world which actually design most of our ranges. As for everyday home interior products our quirky, graphic style makes us stand out

Do you have any words of wisdom that you would like to pass on?

Follow your instincts

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

A friend who was a professor of management studies told me that the thing to worry about in business was making a profit: that is the only way that you will ever stay in business

What do you feel are the most important trends / changes happening in the industry that you feel designers should be aware of?

I think colour is making a comeback. Colours are getting bolder.

What is your most treasured possession?

My collection of Russian Soviet-era ‘realist’ paintings

What is your must-have item for next season?

A ‘Coach’ handbag

Who’s your favourite Style Icon?

Paul Smith: I wish he would start designing for women

Most inspirational person you have met?

Terence  Conran

What is your favourite location?

My house in Spain : it sits in a forest on top of a hill, with a view of the  sea in one direction and the Pyrenees in another.  

In a nutshell, your philosophy is…

Follow through! Finish whatever you start.