Irish designer Orla Langan makes comfortable clothes for the athleisure generation
Irish sportswear designer Orla Langan on career moves and creating collections
Ruched top €190, brass earrings €79 Soko, Atrium
Irish sportswear designer Orla Langan knows more than most about athleisure. Looking at her current collection, designed for everyday wear with sustainability in focus, its unexpected twists and turns mirror, in a curious way, her own career.
Originally from Rathfarnham, Co Dublin, Langan left NCAD in 1991 along with a host of others including footwear designer Eileen Shields, photographer Grainne Walsh, interiors specialist Eoin Lyons and knitwear designer Louise Elliott of Fisherman Out of Ireland. Straight out of college Langan landed a job in Goldenbridge with a childrenswear manufacturer; she stayed for four years, gaining invaluable experience. After it closed, she went out on her own, founded a brand called Optik, and started making t-shirts.
Then, in a sideways move, she did a year’s course in multimedia at Trinity College Dublin, studying web design and programming, and became interested in newly evolving technical fabrics. She then moved to London, where she worked for Fila on five-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg’s collection. Other Irish designers making their way at the time included Electronic Sheep and graphic designer David Poole.
“But I always wanted to do my own thing and was never happy working for someone else” she recalls when we meet in the family home in Rathfarnham. In another twist, she moved to WGSN, the influential international fashion forecasting company as a trend analyst, followed by a year with Sweaty Betty, then a fledgling sports production company, and time at Goose Designs creating collections for Puma and Lee Jeans.
Returning to Dublin in 2012, Langan decided to set up on her own again, while also teaching part time. “I didn’t just want to see something on the high street and then do a version of it – I’d rather do something different,” she says. In her collections, she uses dyes and fabrics which are user and environmentally friendly, including organic soft-handle tencel and “bull” denim. “It’s always good to keep an eye out for new developments in eco-friendly fabrics – I have been researching hemp, for example”, she says.
Denim is her main fabric, mixed with jersey, and she designs, cuts and makes up pieces herself between the family kitchen and an upstairs studio.
Graphic art, deconstruction and androgyny are what inspire her and experimenting with wearable technologies “so I try to create the perfect triangle of denim, sport and technology”.
The current collection uses that mix in adventurous ways. Find pieces in Om Diva on Drury Street in Dublin and Atrium in the Powerscourt Centre.
Photography Lorna Fitzsimons assisted by Jed Kelliher; styled by Jan Brierton @morgantheagency, assisted by Mila Burov; model Sara @morgantheagency; make-up and hair Ashley O Connor. Shot on location at The Grey Area. Mirrors supplied by Regency Glass.