Fashion's new faces
As young Irish designers, photographers, milliners and models, take the fashion world by storm, DEIRDRE MCQUILLANlooks at the ones to watch
Eve Connolly, model
A neighbour’s tip-off after an item on RTÉ’s Mooney Goes Wild prompted 17- year-old schoolgirl Eve Connolly from Celbridge to attend an open day at Assets Model agency in Dublin. “That was in September and they took me on immediately,” she recalls. A student at St Ultan’s Community College in Celbridge, she had always been interested in fashion, but within the year was in demand for catwalk, advertising and editorial fashion shoots.
“I was really lucky with the work and seeing the finished product in editorial shoots, seeing everything come together really gave me a better understanding of the modelling and fashion business,” she says.
She has appeared in a number of catwalk shows including those of Harvey Nichols and Brown Thomas and was one of only two Irish models selected for the latter’s winter campaign. She has now been signed up with a French agency and according to Assets “with her long blonde hair and porcelain skin, she has a real international look that should guarantee further work abroad”. In the meantime, she has to face the Leaving Cert in June but afterwards intends to take a year out and continue modelling. “My whole family have been very supportive and my two sisters are really into fashion. My younger sister keeps asking me about how my make-up and hair are done,” she says.
Her real interest, however, is in drama and performance which was one of the reasons for trying her hand at modelling and ultimately her ambition would be to study drama.
Anne-Olivia Monaghan, stylist and singer
An Irish costume designer based in Paris, Liv Monaghan founded Alto Figaro last year, a vintage designer site for men whose most popular selling items are designer ties from YSL, Dior, Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs.
She is also a jazz singer and styles musicians with Alto Figaro clothing, as well as hosting collaborations between artists. Her made-to-measure kilt in this category attracted a lot of attention and she now has plans to design T-shirts, bags, shorts, trousers and jackets for men.
A theatre and history graduate of TCD, Monaghan started working as a costume designer with the award-winning Sinead Cuthbert, where she became interested in menswear, “and costuming a male-heavy Irish theatre made me start to think about how to introduce drama into menswear”.
Living, working and studying in Italy furthered her desire to get men to dress creatively and have as much fun with their clothes as their female counterparts. “I realised that worlds can be turned upside down by simply wanting to touch someone’s jumper,” she says.
As costume designer she has worked on a number of productions for Blood in the Alley theatre company, Coscéim and gay and fringe festival productions. altofigaro.com
Steve Corcoran, menswear designer
Steve Corcoran is a young Irish designer from Dungarvan, Co Waterford. He is currently based in London. Corcoran started out studying industrial design, but moved to fashion and completed an honour’s degree at NCAD (his graduate collection was based on his interest in architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright) before going on to complete a Master’s at the London College of Fashion.
While there he was chosen to be the sole representative from the student body in the UK to meet Queen Elizabeth at an event in Buckingham Palace to celebrate the fashion industry.
On graduation, he was awarded the highly coveted Guo Scholarship and travelled to Hong Kong where he worked as a designer for nearly two years.
In September he reached the semifinals of Sky Living’s Styled to Rock fashion reality show, on which the judges included the London designer Henry Holland.
His focus is menswear and he is putting the finishing touches to a collection of fashion and accessories. His work blends military Napoleonic style regalia with shiny, metallic fabrics in silver and pink silks with embellishment.
“I have always been a fan of feminine colour palettes and fabrics combined with very structured masculine shapes,” he told Cillian O’Connor of Male-Mode “and high end menswear is becoming increasingly feminine”.
Aidan O’Neill, photographer
A graduate of IADT in Dun Laoghaire, O Neill taught photography for five years in Dublin before leaving for London four years ago. Since then he has worked as a freelance photographer with, among others, the fashion website netaporter and photographed various fashion collections including those of Merle O’Grady and Danielle Romeril. He regularly shoots for Notion, a bi-monthly music, fashion and culture magazine and founded Argon, an online magazine celebrating Irish talent, with make-up artist Ruth Brophy in November 2011. “We wanted to showcase Irish talent in music, art and fashion not just in London, but abroad,” he says, adding that the next issue will have features on the Irish in Germany, an interview with artist Sean Hillen as well as a new daily blog.
As a photographer whose heroes include William Eggleston and Juergen Teller, he is known for blurring the lines between fashion and portraiture, with an aesthetic approach based on seeing beauty in the mundane, using basic lighting. “I tend not to make plans and as little fuss as possible when I shoot using whatever is around. Fashion and portraiture are where my heart is and ideally I would like to come back to Ireland and make a living in order to continue to support Argon,” he says. This year he was part of a group photography show in the Photographers Gallery where, along with celebrated photographers like Rankin and Martin Parr, his images of people from each of the countries competing in the Olympics that call London home were included in an exhibition called The World in London which was also displayed in Oxford Street.
Kate Betts, milliner
Millinery turns heads in Ireland and Aisling Ahern from Roscommon, who won the “Who Wants to Be A Milliner” competition last year, now has her collection stocked in Arnotts. However, Dublin-based milliner Kate Betts, who trained with Lina Stein in Westport and who featured in this magazine last April, went even further, reaching the finals of an international hat competition judged by one of the most distinguished milliners in France, Marie Claire Barban. Barban makes chapeaux for the big Paris fashion houses such as Hermes, Dior and Louis Vuitton and Betts’s hat was not only highly commended, but earned her a valuable internship at Barban’s workshop, Cheri Bibi in central France. “I learned so much there and working with different materials like lambswool. It was an incredible experience working with a milliner who had made all the hats I had so admired in Vogue,” she says.
The experience also has given her useful French contacts in Paris for materials and trimmings which she is putting to work in her new spring collection.
She moved into Project 51 in South William Street before Christmas where she is making hats mostly for weddings and race meetings. “For weddings they really want something that will go with what they are wearing and veiling and uplift styles are really popular.”
For spring she is working with Swiss braid, long plaits of straw that allow for many creative possibilities in a variety of colours. “Brims and feathers are coming back,” she says. “The banning of fascinators at Ascot is now having its effect and hats are generally getting bigger, even though women often feel more confident with something smaller. I am also going to be making crowns and haloes – hairbands are huge in France at the moment.”
Danielle Romeril, fashion designer
Invited to show at London Fashion Week is a rare accolade for a young fashion designer, but Danielle Romeril made a promising debut last September in Somerset House. Currently “knee deep in winter 2013” she will show again in London next month and in Paris in March. Her spring collection has already found enthusiastic buyers in Dubai and China and though Irish stockists have been slower on the uptake, she took many orders in Dublin at the pop-up Ebow Gallery before Christmas.
From Dublin, the daughter of an English diplomat father and a mother from Tullamore (the surname is French from Jersey), she studied fashion design at Limerick School of Art Design, clocking up work experience with Sharon Wauchob in Paris and Sinha Stanic in London. On graduation she moved to London and a job with Amanda Wakeley. Later she completed a Master’s at the RCA during which time she won two significant awards, the Sophie Halette Lace and the IFF (International Flavours Fragrance).
After her RCA graduate show she was headhunted by Alberta Feretti in Italy where she worked in their factory producing garments for Jean Paul Gaultier and Moschino. “I learned about the importance of drape and soft fabrics and absorbed a more feminine aesthetic. I think it is important to make clothing more accessible to a broader age profile. It really helped me to understand commercial appeal and how Moschino sells so much and others don’t.”
Based in a studio in Dublin’s Montague Street, her work is a mixture of handsome, ornate draped silk prints, laser cut leathers with graphic and asymmetric cutting and detailing.
Her winter collection which she is now completing, is inspired by skateboarders and is, she says, less ornate, looser on the body with more handwork and surface detail.