Interview with Irish fashion designer Clare O’Connor
Interview with Irish fashion designer Clare O’Connor. From Dublin to Berlin and Venice then back, Irish fashion designer Clare O’Connor is continuing to make her print on the fashion scene with her vibrant and exciting selection of designs and prints.
Having represented Ireland as part of the ‘Imago Mundi’ Luciano Benetton collection back in 2016, Clare is today part of the Dublin Canvas project. Fashion.ie caught up with Clare to find out more about this talented Irish fashion designer and her unique luxury brand.
How would you define fashion?
I suppose fashion for me is a way to present yourself to the world, a further way to express your creativity, to make a statement of who you are.
What age did you decide to choose fashion designing as a career?
I didn’t really decide I wanted to be a fashion designer, it just kind of happened. I was originally a graphic designer but I found it too restrictive and I wanted to work for myself so I returned to college to study painting, printmaking & photography.
I then got an amazing opportunity to be an artist assistant in Berlin which then brought me to Venice where I had a really creative period. I created a huge body of work & began experimenting with the idea of creating a brand of wearable art.
As an Artist & Designer I wanted to create a way to make a living solely from my creativity so after trying different manufacturers and different fabrics I decided to launch a series of scarves. I hope to expand that to a full fashion collection really soon.
Is the fashion you grew up wearing reflected anywhere in your own designs of today?
Yes, hugely, I was exactly like one of my paintings. It makes me smile when I think about it. I’ve had a very distinctive style from the beginning.
When I was in my late teens and early 20’s I used to wear colourful stripy tights and short vintage floral, metallic & colourful bright dresses, the more they clashed and made a statement the better.
I also went through a stage of dying my hair, I had it blue, green, red, purple, when I was in 6th year the teachers used to joke that they used to look forward to seeing what colour I would come in with next.
Your designs are very creative, where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
I get all my design inspiration directly from my paintings and prints. I like to layer and work intuitively when I am working on my paintings so I combine splashes of paint, drips, stripes, collage, tape, patterns and lots of colour.
My paintings always end up vibrant and bright and full of positive energy. I then take photos of my paintings and I use sections for my designs and take them into photoshop where I sometimes layer them further or just use them as they are.
What skills according to you are necessary for a successful fashion designer?
I think you need to have a very broad range of skills to be really successful in any creative field. You also have to intuitively know what people want and be able to be innovative & different.
For me to create my brand, I have combined my graphic design, packaging design, web design, photography, painting and printmaking skills with all the skills and experience I have gained while working as a designer, artist, teacher, artist assistant, gallery assistant, tour guide, writer, administrator, market researcher and waitress. Its amazing how all the experiences come together to help me run my business.
Do you use technology when setting out to design a piece of clothing or do you sketch the ideas out first?
So far I have created a range of accessories so I have been using photography and photoshop to layout and create my designs but In the future when I am creating a full fashion collection, my skills from my life drawing classes will come into play as I will have to initially scetch out ideas.
Are there any Irish/International fashion designers that you admire and why?
Yes, I really admire Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel) for her elegance & classical designs, they are still beautiful now. She followed her dream and was so ahead of her time.
What high street clothing brands similar to your own would you consider to be good value for money in terms or design and cost of garment items?
My favourite brand on the high street would be AllSaints, I love their soft silk dresses and knitwear range, they are great quality and always last me years.
Out of all of your designs to date, what would you consider your personal favourite and why?
I have a beautiful yellow scarf from my first collection. It was the first design I used to create my first samples in Italy and it is based on one of my favourite large-scale paintings.
What is the best part of being a fashion designer?
Creating beautiful things I can wear.
Do you think there is enough being done to help the Irish fashion industry considering the stiff competition from international brands accessible on the internet today?
No I don’t think so but I think it is getting much better. Dunnes Stores are doing great collaborations with fantastic Irish Designers. Brown Thomas has a brilliant programme every year where they showcase new Irish fashion in a temporary pop-up, giving designers a chance to build brand awareness and get their collections out there.
Also Marion Cuddy in the Powerscourt Town Centre solely supports and showcases Irish Fashion in her Irish Designers Emporium. There is certainly a growing awareness and interest but I think the big Irish stores should be buying much more Irish fashion thus supporting & enabling Irish Fashion designers much more.
What more could be done do you think to help young fashion designers of today?
There needs to be a huge jump in available funding for all creative industries. Its not just fashion designers, artists and other creatives need to be supported much more.
There needs to be access to studio spaces to create and more accessible financial support so creatives can develop their talents and become self sufficient. There is so much funding available for IT and other industries, the government and society as a whole needs to value creative people more.
Do you design be-spoke garments tailored to someone’s needs?
No, not at the moment but I am always open if anyone approaches me and it is something I hope to do in the future.
What advice would you give to any person considering a career as a fashion designer?
I think everyone should follow their dreams, always trust your gut and it doesn’t matter at what stage you start or however long it takes you.
What new designs can we expect from you this season?
Lots more bright vibrant colours and clashing patterns, some new sizes and styles and a mens range.
Having the latest designs in fashionable layering is important for that completed look and what is even better is when it has an Irish fashion label attached.
Check out Clare’s latest fashion collection and don’t forget to follow her on social media to be kept up to date on some of the best designs in Irish fashion today!