We both recall the first time we saw Jan Milne. It was a dark afternoon on Glasgow's Byres Road and we watched as she darted purposefully from one side of the street to the other. Like a brightly-coloured beacon, she shone with the wattage of Joseph's coat at a funeral procession. Piled high on wasp-coloured Buffalo shoes and looking for all the world like an acid trip Steffi Graf, she was wearing - approximately – lime-coloured clam diggers, a silver polo neck and a baby blue angora jacket. We guessed she was somebody but it wasn't until we visited her Glasgow apartment many months later that we realised who that somebody was. Even as we familiarised ourselves with her impressive but "portraitless" press blurb, we still did not make the connection. If only every designer pursued their passion with the same colourful enthusiasm as Milne then the world would be a brighter place.
And so here we are, a year after that initial sighting, sitting alongside the Duchess of Dayglo and considering the merits of a fabric and furniture collection that takes much of its inspiration from the fruit bowl.
"People think I am triggered by the 1960s and 1970s," says Milne, but that's just so not the case. I've got very few conscious influences although recently the fruit and flower thing has crept in."
Glancing around her comfortable pad, two things become clear - the first is that Milne loves extremes of colour and the second is that "understated daywear" are not words that feature prominently in her vocabulary. Today she is wearing a Barbie pink sweater, canary yellow leisure trousers and a pair of peep-toe sling-back Buffalos that reveal perfectly varnished burgundy toenails. Part Doris Day, part Diana Dors and part Spice Girl, she is a heady cocktail of everything we love. Welcome to the nutty world of Jan Milne.
Born in 1972 and hailing from Aberdeen, Milne trained at Glasgow School of Art and graduated with first class honours in printed textiles. Later, she set up her first studio on the South Side of Glasgow and things quickly took off.
"I've always had the reputation of being fixated by colour and back then that was all I had to worry about." With an almost rueful look the designer adds that as her company grows, she has had to learn other aspects of business such as "planning, budget, financing, meetings and forecasting", although she eventually concedes that this challenge is now a welcome section of life.
"It's all part of the learning curve," she admits, "and understanding the logistics of business encourages me to work harder to keep my company buoyant."
As we wander from room to room, Milne's style is instantly identifiable and a joyous celebration of her own life, yet within it we find a playful paradox that makes us both smile. As much as her colourful work may ensure she never professionally "blends in", the inside of her apartment is an entirely different affair. Here she could go almost unnoticed due to the fact that what she produces - in decor terms - bears such a strong relationship with her own physicality and character. So it's official - Jan Milne actually looks every bit as colourful as her own work.
"This has actually helped me in the past," she smiles, "and at trade shows if I've not been on my stand, customers have been able to guess who I am just by looking
While best known for her dramatically hued fabrics, Milne has recently moved into laminates, creating a collection of occasional tables and stools that all possess her unique style. Already producing successfully, she has worked flat out to generate a client list that includes the Genki Sushi Bar in New York, a casino in Connecticut and a health club in Croydon. A further diversification came via L'Oreal, which commissioned her to create a selection of handbags as promotional gifts for journalists. "If the project is interesting enough," she smiles, "I look at it."
With much of today's interior design centred around minimal schemes with understated colour direction, it comes as a refreshing change to meet a designer who is prepared to fly in the face of all that. If you are the type of person who likes subdued interiors then you might not like Milne's work. If, on the other hand, you consider yourself possessed of an open mind, you might just fall in love.
A quick sashay around Milne's own home was all it took to leave us thinking about adding unexpected colour splashes in our own environments. So pass us the fruit bowl and some juicy lime green paint, we think we might just be hooked.