Joanna Lyle

Milan based designer of luxury and bespoke furniture and textiles, Joanna Lyle, completed the
Art & Design Foundation course at Bradford School of Art in 1982.

Joanna Lyle“My year at Bradford College was fundamental to my career in that not only did it give an excellent grounding in all aspects of art and design, enabling me to understand in which area I wanted to specialise and obtain a place on my first choice degree course; but it was also really hard work and the staff were tough, which was great preparation for the realities of the workplace!”

After College Joanna went on to gain a BA (Hons) degree in Three-dimensional Design at Middlesex University, followed by a Masters degree in Furniture Design & Technology from Buckingham University.

“I arrived in Milan in May 1988 with 50 kilos of luggage and a sewing machine, about £100 and extremely limited knowledge of the Italian language! I basically knew how to buy a tram ticket and how to ask if there was anybody who spoke English. Armed with these tools I began the tour with my portfolio in the hope of being one of the few foreign graduates fortunate enough to obtain a paid job in one of the famous and prestigious Milan design studios.

Milan was the Mecca for so many design graduates from around the world that just to find a place was a challenge in itself, but with so many thrilled to have the privilege of working in the studio of one of these mythical design gurus for absolutely no pay, to find a job that paid even a meagre wage was considered a major achievement!

I did eventually strike lucky and was offered, not one job, but two! And so began my experience as a fully fledged designer in the studio of Perry King and Santiago Miranda, at the same time as developing my own designs and pursuing contacts with manufacturing companies. Being one of the winners of the Alessi competition Memory Containers in 1990 was the catalyst for going it alone and working completely on a freelance basis on my own designs.”

Joanna now runs her own company, producing and marketing her collection of furniture, lighting and home accessories. She also offers a design consultancy for interiors, textiles and product design, and works on commissions for interior designers and architects.

“Milan is a city for working and life is quite different from the rest of Italy. Life here isn’t quite the ‘Dolce Vita’ that people imagine, and the dreadful bureaucracy and inefficiency of public services like the postal service can drive you crazy. The pollution is really bad, the winters are long and cold and the summers extremely hot, humid and mosquito ridden. But it is an incredibly beautiful country and there are fantastic places to escape to for weekends.

One of the best things about Italy is the possibility to work with the wealth of small companies and artisans thus having the possibility to realise design ideas. It is wonderful to work with people who are enthusiastic and who take a real pride in using their skills to produce work of the highest quality. I’ve been fortunate to form lasting relations with some incredibly talented people who are producing furniture (mostly upholstered) and soft-furnishings under my own label, Joanna Lyle Design.”

Photograph supplied by Joanna Lyle