Section: Inside Interview
Author: Fashion Team | More from this author >>>
With over 20 years’ experience in the fashion industry, co-host of RTE’s “Off The Rails” Sonya Lennon this week chats to Kevin O’Brien of Fashion.ie.
As a serious Stylist, Broadcaster, Author and Costume Designer, Sonya has recently added Social Entrepreneur to her remit as she launches global not for profit initiative Dress for Success in Ireland. A passionate supporter of Irish Design, Sonya has created the Dais Project, a trilogy of Fashion Films to promote Irish Fashion Designers internationally.
Where did you grow up?
In Malahide, Co Dublin right beside the sea.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
My mum wasn’t too shabby with the sewing machine so I used to order couture numbers including a ‘queen’ dress for my 7th birthday, and a grey and pink candy striped jumpsuit. I also loved watching my Mum getting ready to go out and the smell of Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche wafting through the house
From what age did you start to take notice about the way you dressed?
As you can probably tell, it started pretty early. I actually met someone out the other night who I last saw when I was eleven. She told me that she never forgot the deep conversation we had about jeans, which mainly revolved around the fact that I had a yellow pair and she wanted them.
Please tell Fashion.ie readers a little bit about your story and how you got into fashion styling?
I’m a very practical human and when I left school, to my parent’s horror I refused to do a degree. I started working in retail, first Blarney Woolen Mills on Nassau St and then Kamouflage and Firenze off Grafton Street, both now sadly gone. There were only a few stylists working in Dublin at the time and they were my idols. I would help them to pull their stories together and dreamed of doing their job. I suppose one day the penny dropped and I realised that there was nothing stopping me. From there I started working hard to pull a portfolio together and within one year I was fashion Editor for d’Side magazine published by Image Editor Melanie Morris. Then I just kept going and here I am.
How would you describe your own personal style?
Colourful, confident, body aware, and womanly.
What are your own favorite colours?
In the words of Iris Apfel ‘I’ve never met a colour I didn’t like.” I love bright colour, pale sugared almond tones and sludgy autumnals.
What would be your own perfect casual outfit to wear during the day?
Well right now I’m wearing an Isabel Marant silk top, an ochre Zara tunic dress , my new Churches biker(ish) boots and crystal beads by Melissa Curry
Do you have to watch what you eat to stay in shape?
I’m a Bikram addict plus I’m on the move all the time so I burn a lot of calories. However, I’m very conscious of the fuel I use to keep my system and energy high. I juice a lot of fruit and vegetables always with a shot of ginger. That said, I easily fall prey to stinky cheese and dark chocolate.
Do you think we Irish are a stylish nation, explain?
I think things are improving. We are living in a society which references global influences. There is still a streak of overcooked glamour but that also exists everywhere. The difference is that Brazilians and Italians do it naturally we have to dye our skin to get the look.
Have you seen noticed much of a change in the past 10 years in the way we dress in Ireland?
Huge, the blatant logos of 5 to 10 years ago have largely subsided. However, plenty of people still need to be defined within their tribe by the labels they wear, I suppose that will never change. It’s a comfort for the brand junkie to let people know that they belong in the gang without having to prove it with their personality or intellect.
Is there any items or colours that guys should not wear, explain?
I don’t believe in imposing blanket bans on anyone. You never know the moment when something might look brilliant. However, I would caution to only wear something you believe in, trying hard rarely looks good
Who are your favorite Irish designers and why?
Tim Ryan, Joanne Hynes, Melissa Curry, Pauric Sweeney, Sharon Wauchob, John Rocha, Simone Rocha, JW Anderson, there are so many great Irish designers at the moment we have a wealth of talent to choose from. I suppose Tim is very important to me because we are close friends and I think we understand each other. Every time I wear one of his pieces I feel hugged.
Which Irish designers are worth watching out for in 2012-2013?
Stephanie Grace Foy and Joanne Power are the ones to watch.
Do you think it’s important to accessories?
I think of accessories as a masters to be tackled once you have got your degree. Lots of women come up to me and lament that they don’t know how to accessorise, it’s not that difficult, you just need to know what you’re doing, they are the clever way to personalise your style.
Are shoes now being vanity sized?
I have no idea, tell me more!
If you could pick 3 fashion must-haves that every woman should own, what would they be?
A great workhorse dress that makes the most (and the least) of what you’ve got. An architectural jacket, to be worn to create structure not to keep you warm. A really flattering pair of trousers.
What’s a great fashion tip that you can share with Fashion.ie readers?
When you pick up that ‘bargain’ in the shop, mentally add a zero to the price and ask would you still be interested.
Who’s your favorite celebrity style and why?
Kirsten Dunst, she always looks ethereal and effortless.
Tell us something that people would not normally know about you?
I’m left handed.
What is the best fashion tip that anyone has given you?
The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.
Are there any high street stores in particular that you feel offer good value for money on their clothing ranges, explain?
I think TK Maxx is for one off finds. Zara always just nail the season ‘inspired’ by the catwalk.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
I love Costume and Smock in Dublin. Also Jenny Vander for vintage. I love a go of Kildare Village for Tommy Hilfiger catwalk collections particularly.
What’s the most expensive piece of clothing you have ever bought and how much is it worth?
A Roland Mouret dress from Costume how much its worth and how much I paid for it are two very different things. It retailed for the guts of two grand but I adore it so it’s worth that to me.
Do you think enough is being done to help promote Irish fashion designers?
I think we’re building up momentum. We are at a very fertile time. It’s becoming much easier to get excited about what our designers are doing. There’s plenty more to be done to nurture our indigenous talent.
What’s a must have in fashion at the moment?
I don’t believe in universal ‘must haves’, if everyone is doing it, where’s the creative expression?
If you could choose any celebrity living or dead to “make-over” who would it be and why?
I’d head to New York in the late 70’s early 80’s and hang out with Debbie Harry.
What’s the biggest challenge when styling a celebrity?
It’s not something I often have to deal with, but, the issue is always the same, they bring preconceptions about themselves and you to the table, but the same could be said of any women who isn’t a professional model.
What type of music do you listen to?
Everything from Pergolesi, Snoop Dogg, Nina Simone, Laura Marling, The Clash, Michael Jackson. You name it.
Have you ever given fashion advice to someone and then seen the end product and thought “that does not look right”, explain?
When you’re working with someone it’s a process not a dictate. They need to feel right or else it doesn’t work. On “Off The Rails”, we dress the candidates without mirrors to heighten the reveal moment, but the girls always know when something is good because they can feel it.
Any future projects you want to plug or share with our Fashion.ie readers?
Brendan and I are working on a collection of clothing for launch this coming Autumn Winter, we are also launching our new book in October. Off The Rails is back in September. We’re launching a series of workshops, the first of which is in The Galway Bay Hotel on April 1st. Also, my not for profit initiative Dress for Success is up and running and helping women to return to the workplace by donating interview outfits and giving professional advice www.dressforsuccessdublin.org
What has been your greatest fashion obstacle/challenge?
My brain works creatively, obstacles become new solutions.
How do you think Brendan Courtney and yourself complement each other by working on “Off the Rails”?
We are yin and yang.
What is the most insulting thing anybody has said about your work?
If they haven’t said it to my face it doesn’t count.
If you could have lunch with anyone past of present who would you chose and why?
I’d like to meet me style heroine Iris Apfel and Yves Saint Laurent.
Thanks Sonya and finally what makes a good fashion stylist?
Talent, tenacity, hard graft and undying enthusiasm.
Author: Fashion Team | More from this author >>>