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

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.

Jumpsuit with denim puff sleeve and jersey panels €225, white flat pumps Mango €49.95, silver disc earring €25 Om Diva
Jumpsuit with denim puff sleeve and jersey panels €225, white flat pumps Mango €49.95, silver disc earring €25 Om Diva
Denim tuxedo with ruched sleeves detail €275, offset crop denim and organic jersey top €165, crop trouser with pocket layer at waist and open leg detail €215, strappy stilettoes Zara €49.95, earrings Capulet + Montague €58
Denim tuxedo with ruched sleeves detail €275, offset crop denim and organic jersey top €165, crop trouser with pocket layer at waist and open leg detail €215, strappy stilettoes Zara €49.95, earrings Capulet + Montague €58
Single sleeve offset top with organic jersey and lime green panel €175, collared asymmetric top with organic jersey and denim €169, sunglasses Om Diva €32
Single sleeve offset top with organic jersey and lime green panel €175, collared asymmetric top with organic jersey and denim €169, sunglasses Om Diva €32

“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.

Ice blue organic quilted denim gilet with utility pockets €275, jumpsuit with dolman puffed sleeve in denim with jersey panels €225, grey suede stilettos Zara €25.95, brown Perspex earring Om Diva €28
Ice blue organic quilted denim gilet with utility pockets €275, jumpsuit with dolman puffed sleeve in denim with jersey panels €225, grey suede stilettos Zara €25.95, brown Perspex earring Om Diva €28
White ruched top €190, panelled engineered trouser with neon trim €195, brass earring Soko, Atrium €79, ring Soko Atrium €89
White ruched top €190, panelled engineered trouser with neon trim €195, brass earring Soko, Atrium €79, ring Soko Atrium €89
Ruched top €190, panelled trouser with neon trim €195, braided stilettoes Zara €55.95, brass earring Soko Atrium €79, sunglasses Om Diva €32, ring €89 Soko, Atrium
Ruched top €190, panelled trouser with neon trim €195, braided stilettoes Zara €55.95, brass earring Soko Atrium €79, sunglasses Om Diva €32, ring €89 Soko, Atrium

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”.

Organza dress with organic pointelle jersey €225, panelled graphic engineered trouser with neon trim €195, Perspex knot cuff Capulet + Montague €65, cord shes Miista at Atrium €189
Organza dress with organic pointelle jersey €225, panelled graphic engineered trouser with neon trim €195, Perspex knot cuff Capulet + Montague €65, cord shes Miista at Atrium €189
Graphic print and organic jersey top with raised seams €165, graphic print tencel and organic jersey joggers €179, braided stilettos Zara €55.95, triangle earring Aliquo, Om Diva €68
Graphic print and organic jersey top with raised seams €165, graphic print tencel and organic jersey joggers €179, braided stilettos Zara €55.95, triangle earring Aliquo, Om Diva €68
Organic mix top with collar feature and utility pocket €180, organic jersey panelled asymmetric skirt €150, grey suede stilettos €25.95, curved earring €65 Om Diva, belt €24
Organic mix top with collar feature and utility pocket €180, organic jersey panelled asymmetric skirt €150, grey suede stilettos €25.95, curved earring €65 Om Diva, belt €24

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.

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