Donna Ida
Featured in Great British Brands 2020

Donna Ida

Jean Queen combining British tailoring with Australian wit

The founder of the denim-based fashion brand, Donna Ida, was born and raised in Sydney, but it was London that sparked the label’s launch in 2012. Having lived and worked there for over ten years, Donna Ida Thornton struggled to find truly comfortable jeans that could both fit and flatter. When a friend suggested she launch her own denim brand, she gutsily grasped the challenge and was subsequently hailed by Grazia magazine as the ‘jeans genius’.


Donna Ida focuses on high-waisted jeans and statement all- in-ones designed with women’s bodies in mind. Thornton was inspired by her grandmother, Ida, who was well known for her style in rural Australia and made her own patterns, dressing family and friends. The brand shaped its core collection around an imaginary group of close friends seen as Ida’s modern-day girl squad, playfully represented by jeans that suited their personalities. Leggy Ivy was a high-top skinny jean, the more conservative Jeanie was a cigarette leg and Rizzo, the fun girl about town, an ankle skinny.

Thornton was inspired by her grandmother, Ida, who was well known for her style in rural Australia and made her own patterns

Donna Ida

In 2015 directional denim shapes entered the collection, with Sadie the boiler suit causing a stir, followed by Dolly, a fitted all-in-one with a seductive centre zip. Cassandra, a retro-style jumpsuit, was launched in 2019 and modelled on a vintage 1950s shape to create an elongated hourglass figure. Thornton discovered Cassandra’s distinct style when borrowing a friend’s grandmother’s denim jumpsuit, who bought it originally as an outfit in which to watch the car races. ‘The jumpsuit, or boiler suit, is genuinely versatile,’ says Thornton. ‘It can take you from boardroom to bar, with just a simple shoe change. It is sexy, stylish and modern, and you don’t have to worry about finding items to complement it.’


The past 12 months have seen the brand focusing on its pop-up programme. ‘We’re very optimistic about our pop-up stores – in the past they have always been so well received. We love going on the road and meeting our customers, who in turn love to meet the brand and get a personal fitting. In 2019 we travelled to New York, Hong Kong and all over Britain to fit women in their perfect pair of jeans,’ says Thornton. ‘Direct to consumer has always worked for us, as our customers want to meet us. I am also able to focus on the two things that I really love – product and people. All retail is, is connecting those two things, and keeping this connection as simple as possible is key.’


Thornton sees the biggest challenge in fashion as moving forward in a more considered and sustainable way. ‘I’ve always thought it better to buy less, but to buy investment pieces. We’re working closely with our factories on ethical and sustainable solutions and we are transparent about how all of our items are made, the materials used and the people behind the products.’


Thornton brings an approachability to the brand which has a refreshingly Australian spirit but she maintains that the heart of the business is in London and the fit and quality are British. The crossover, she thinks, comes with the sense of humour: ‘The British and Australian sense of humours are so similar. I like to bring this to the brand.’