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The Sunday Times, Ecosse supplement : Homecoming for a rainbow Warrior
:: Homecoming of a rainbow warrior

Jan Milne is a textile designer based in Glasgow’s Govan. But fans of her deliciously colourful fabrics are most likely to find her bright textiles and funky furniture gracing the interior of a restaurant in New York or an exclusive private retreat in the Caribbean.
Since graduating from Glasgow School of Art, Milne has built up an enviable reputation. Her designs which she describes as “bold and daring” already feature in the upmarket Sony Plaza in New York and the American W hotel chain.
In the flesh, Milne looks every bit as colourful as her products. An outfit of bright pinks and lilacs is completed with silver trainers. On a dull January day, this woman is a walking rainbow.
Milne has always been fascinated by bright hues. At college she wrote a dissertation on the psychology of colour, which has been a major influence ever since. In a recent project, the Samba Brazilian Steakhouse in the Mirage Casino, Las Vegas she decorated pink velvet with orange gerberas, and purple with yellow daisies. For Gloria Estefan’s restaurant, Bongos, in Miami Milne plumped for turquoise velvet and lime slices.
“A lot of my work is in America,” she says. “I think they are more open to the use of colour, a bit more adventurous. The UK is more conservative. There’s still that big minimalist thing and people are not sure about using colours.”
Milne’s first big break was at a 1996 gift-design show in New York. “I met a guy who was buying ties for Barneys department store. He told me he had an architect friend who would love my work. So she contacted me and I sent her a sample.”
The woman immediately commissioned Milne, 29, to design fabrics for the banquettes at the Genki Sushi bar on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Since then, Milne has headed Stateside regularly to tap the market but does not intend to neglect her home turf in Britain. Recently she has been working on designs for the restaurant in the National Botanic Garden of Wales, near Cardiff.
After leaving art school, where she was talked into studying textiles despite plans for a degree in painting, Milne put together a business plan. Backed by the Scottish Arts Council and Glasgow city council, she set up her own studio.
In 1997 she was highly commended in the Glasgow Development Agency’s Business Start-Up of the Year awards and was later invited to enter a competition for young, talented designers. The brief was to design a gift for British politicians to give to visiting heads of state. Milne misunderstood, however, and thought the aim was to devise something fresh and innovative to represent a modern Britain.

Her entry was a bright yellow shower curtain with huge photographic orange sunflowers and smaller pink flowers. It may have been an unorthodox present for foreign dignitaries, but it did catch the judges’ eyes. She was short-listed for the award and invited to 10 Downing Street to meet Tony Blair.

Not surprisingly, her love of bold design and bright hues does not stop at the door of her flat in Kelvinside Her bedroom is as pink as a maiden's blush. Delicate fairy lights twinkle on the walls a fluffy duvet looks as light as the pink feathers that decorate it. The inspiration came after walking along the beach in Kirkcaldy. "Basically I just design for myself, which sounds like a selfish concept, but it means that I love what I do and therefore have it in my flat."
Shiny satin bags with her distinctive spiral designs hang from her wardrobe - evidence of her latest venture. "I'd really like to design handbags at the higher end of the rnarket for places like Harvey Nichols." The idea came after she was commissioned by the make-up giant L'Oreal to design a promotional gift bag. She came up with a red metallic shot silk bag with spirals. "After that I held a couple of handbag parties, which were fantastic," she says. "You've always got to keep ahead of the game in this business." It is a mantra that has served her well so far.

source :: Lynn Cochrane

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