Since the news of his tragic passing on Sunday evening, many conversations and memories have been shared about the great Donald Fowler, a Dallas retailer with impeccable taste, a talented playwright, and a man with a preternatural amount of charisma and kindness.
In celebration of Donald, PaperCity staffers and beyond have written some of their favorite memories of a man who will be greatly missed.
Rebecca Sherman, Home Design Editor
I first met Donald 20 years ago when he was running Translations, one of Dallas’ first really edgy home decor stores. Mary Bloom, co-founder of Translations, was so excited about Donald’s taste level and his enthusiasm — it was obvious he was destined to make a mark on Dallas. Handsome and a sophisticated dresser, Donald always stood out in a room. His style really blossomed at Nest, which he ran for years before landing at the Nasher gift shop. He was charismatic and kind. I admired how he wore his heart on his sleeve — you knew when he was feeling emotional, discouraged, down, whatever — and he wasn’t afraid to let it show.
I only knew the side of him that appreciated and promoted great design — but when his musical “Creep” came out in 2015, I also learned what a talented writer and actor he was. I always meant to tell him that, and wished I had.
Maggie Wilson, Events and Partnerships Manager
I was fortunate to be able to meet Donald many years ago through my uncle, who is great friends with him. All of my memories of Donald include lots of laughter. I was lucky enough to get to see him just a few weeks ago before shelter at home was put in order. My uncle, Donald, and I sat for hours after dinner, listening to ’80s punk music and watching classic music videos. They retold stories about their club days and ridiculous style during the decade. I’m so happy I have this memory along with many others to remember Donald by.
Whether they involved lunch, dinner, or just a trip to the movies, my memories with Donald are are filled with laughter and his infectious smile. He was a wonderful man with a great sense of humor, and just wanted to help everyone achieve their best. He will be greatly missed by all of those who were lucky enough to meet him.
Billy Fong, Style Editor
I first met Donald five years ago when I was working for the Texas Association of Museums. We initiated professional development programs, which primarily benefited smaller organizations in small towns. I approached Donald to see if he was willing to assist in putting together a conference focusing on retail development. Without skipping a beat he immediately offered his assistance. What he did at The Nasher was innovative, intriguing, and (most of all) financially successful. He was so willing to share his creativity and wisdom with everyone.
Caitlin Clark, Digital Editorial Director
I only met Donald Fowler once several years ago, but it’s a vivid memory. I had gone to The Nasher to visit their newly appointed director of retail just ahead of the new museum shop’s unveiling in 2017. At that point, I had covered countless retail openings for D Magazine, and had pretty much gotten the interview process down to an art: get a sense of the space, a good quote and a brand name or two, then go along your way.
What I didn’t know then was that Donald would never have stood for something so impersonal. From the moment he greeted me at the museum shop’s glittering glass doors, the impeccably dressed man was warm, welcoming, and wanted to talk. We sat together and spoke for almost an hour in his office before we even walked into the shop (which was beautiful by the way). I soaked up every charismatically delivered word.
Somehow, the conversation turned to “Creep,” the original musical Fowler had created about Jack the Ripper, despite never learning to read or notate music. I told him I’d like to do something like that one day. “Just start writing it,” he said, so coolly and matter of factly, he could have inspired me to try anything. I still haven’t written anything as original, but I think about his advice all the time. I always will.
Melinda Knowles, a former PaperCity “Bomb Girl”
Years ago, when my children were at the Greenhill School and Donald was the head home buyer for Stanley Korshak, I was the chair for the patron party for the Greenhill Gala. We decided on an evening shopping event. While working together, Donald and I became best friends.
It was just before the holidays, and Donald had a gorgeous Christmas tree in the front window. His theme was “Birds of Nature” — all sorts but there were some particularly beautiful and expensive peacock ornaments. I told him that one of Greenhill’s mascots are the peacocks which roam wild on campus. If the tree were all peacocks, they would be sure to sell out that night.
He dashed to the back to get another box of peacock ornaments. We were minutes before the party was to start! We climbed up and tore the other birds off that tree replacing them with peacocks. We just laughed and laughed because we must have looked a sight — bird ornaments flying everywhere! But Donald sold out the peacocks that night. He was so thoughtful he sent me a little thank you gift afterwards.