Claire German is the formidable CEO of Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour but also my friend and mentor for the last thirty years. Claire is one of the most exciting and effective champions of the design industry and has an exceptional track record of delivering change and meaningful results. Claire works closely with the owners to deliver their vision, nurturing the best in global talent. I always laugh and learn when I am with Claire, I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did.
What do you love most about running DCCH?
As the ex Publishing Director of House & Garden, my background in magazine publishing has helped in my role at the Design Centre as brand building, creativity and communication skills are important in both. It’s always fast-paced as we’re constantly setting new benchmarks about what to see and do in a multi-faceted global scene. We’re the home of 120 international showrooms so it’s incredibly inspiring to be at the vanguard of new launches and the latest designer collaborations. We love championing the wealth of talent here and rolling out new initiatives to shine a spotlight on the best in design. Our homes have become central to our lives and there’s a new energy and optimism about the role of interiors at the moment. After far too much time looking at a computer screen, it’s uplifting to see joyful palettes and patterns once again, and there’s no substitute to seeing the sublime craftsmanship, materials and finishes up close in the showrooms. Any industry, though, is all about the people within it. My role is incredibly diverse, and no day is ever the same, whether it is looking at new launches and initiatives, to basic every day running of the Centre, to meeting new companies and creatives who want to work with us! The Design Centre has long been a catalyst of creative connections, and that sense of community – already one of our greatest strengths – has never been stronger.
What sets you and DCCH apart from competitors?
The Design Centre has changed enormously since I came on board, but the confident vision of the owners means we continue to evolve. We’re growing faster than ever, attracting more companies, building new audiences and investing in our infrastructure. We’ve created a wonderful environment that people want to come to, and businesses want to be a part of. We welcome not only those who have a passion for creating their own homes, but designers and architects who are working on top hotels, bars, boutiques, yachts and jets. Strategies to reach new design lovers, create must-see experiences and increase footfall have presented all sorts of exciting possibilities. Our digital channels reach out far and wide as the voice of design authority, sharing ideas and news about the people, products and projects you need to know about. We’re bricks, mortar and beyond.
What is your vision for the future of DCCH?
In line with the owners’ vision for the future, we’re committed to being the world’s No.1 design destination. This year represents an ambition to increase the breadth and scope of what’s on offer. A continuous roster of compelling exhibitions, creative encounters and curated luxury events will enhance the annual programme. This year in June, a lockdown dream of mine has been brought to life! The idea was to produce an annual in house, showhouse and from this has been born the WOW!house. We threw open the doors to WOW!house, our first ever designer showhouse. It’s is a highly immersive design experience; room after room of imaginative wonder, created by 20 acclaimed interior designers, working in collaboration with renowned makers and international design houses. The work of Peter Adjaye, a contemporary conceptual sound artist, is an integral part of the visitor journey. It’s particularly thrilling as the project celebrates designers whose work is not always shown to the public. A portion of the proceeds will go to Centrepoint, the charity to end youth homelessness. This has been so very exciting as the reaction from the press, the designers and the industry, has on the whole been totally overwhelming.
I know the interior design industry needs something like this in London and I am proud to know myself and my brilliant team have initiated this! It has been described as a game changer for the industry and it really is!
What are the most rewarding aspects of what you do?
I love championing the community, building loyalty and creating an ecosystem, so we’re not seen as just landlord and tenant: what we do here is create a culture. That’s the power of design – and it’s exactly where the world’s premier design destination that looks to the future should be. We are very lucky that the Interior Design Industry is so collaborative and friendly, and I feel so proud to play such an important role within it!
What is the best piece of career advice you have been given?
Never fill the silences in a conversation and always try to colour outside the lines!
Describe yourself in 3 words
Driven, energetic, fun.
What is your life motto?
He who dares wins!
Who inspires you and why?
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen, which is very appropriate on her Jubilee Year. She epitomises dedication, duty, hard-work, strength, and I love her approach of ‘never complain, never explain’. She is a mainstay of British Culture and will remain a hallmark of history.
What have you learnt over the last two years?
Out of adversity comes great creativity and never be afraid to press the pause button and re-set. I am never frightened by change; I feel it brings opportunities.
Where is your favourite place to travel to
Before lockdown I went to Japan. The trip seems like a dream now, but it was a revelation. I loved the sense of calm and grace that pervades all things. I was struck by how modernity mingles with ancient culture and history so effortlessly. The Japanese manage to convey the sense that they are able to look both backwards to tradition and forwards to the future with equal ease. I can’t wait to go back and explore more of Japan!
Who are your style icons?
We recently featured Iris Apfel in our magazine, The Journal. One of the world’s most recognisable tastemakers across fashion, textiles and interior design, she is a true original. Her singular style, entrepreneurial spirit and creative independence have made her the subject of several museum exhibitions, a book, a documentary and even a campaign for MAC Cosmetics. A century old, the bespectacled New Yorker is having the time of her life and inspiring every generation. That takes huge greatness to keep relevant throughout decades.
Do you collect anything?
I have an obsession with china, both antique, modern and one-off’s, they all bring me great joy. I love taking the time in transforming the table at home. There are no set rules, but laying the table with lovely plates, glasses and flowers can make even the simplest meal for friends and family something special. I can change the theme very quickly with all my various sets.
My favourite is what I call my nostalgia table where I bring out my old, favourite china & glass and family silver. It really is very special. I like to be a generous and fun host so the table laying is very important to me to enable my friends and family to enjoy all my precious pieces!
Maya Angelou once said, "people will forget what you did, and forget what you said, but will never forget how you made them feel."
What are your Top Tips for entertaining?
I love the simplicity of champagne on its own, but there's something rather fun about taking things to the next level. Jazzing up a glass of fizz into a champagne cocktail gets everyone in the mood. I am famous for my champagne cocktail – it really sets the tone for the occasion… to adapt the Dorothy Parker quote: “Claire’s cocktail is fabulous, two at the most, three I am under the table and four I am under the host!”
Image copyright - Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour