On the A-list


Peter O’Brien goes modern with his last a|wear collection

“I WILL BEdesigning dresses until I am in a box. I would die if I didn’t make clothes.” So said Peter O’Brien as his last collection for a|wear, and arguably his best, was launched last week in Dublin. Modelled here by The Model Agentcompetition winner Carrie Anne Burton, with vintage jewellery from John Farrington, it’s a well-executed mix of tailoring and flou, of the shapely, elegant grey flannel jacket or coat for day and the soft, glamorous dress in real silk taffeta and jersey for evening.

“It’s a user-friendly collection. I wanted it to look modern and contemporary, but not frightening – I get frustrated by people who think I only design clothes for women married to bankers.”

Coming from a couturier who once teamed a ballgown in duchesse satin with a rolled up Aran sweater on the Paris catwalk, his rendering of couture looks at affordable prices has a devoted fan base. He prefers winter collections – “winter has more bite to it” – and behind the self-deprecating attitude is a serious craftsman’s insistence on the right fabrics and workmanship within the constraints of the high street.

A colour palette of grey, taupe and navy with occasional colour accents keeps the collection focused and delicate Peter Pan-collared pintucked chiffon blouses are worn with high-waisted slim skirts or cropped trousers.

He styled this shoot, adding ribbons and bows to vintage Victorian pearl and diamond necklaces and clusters of crescent moon brooches to lapels, a look that is easy to copy using costume jewellery.

Surprisingly, he admits that he is “maladroit with my fingers, but I don’t mind sewing beads – I find that quite therapeutic. I know my limitations as a seamstress.” Recently, he spent nearly three hours laboriously sewing Swarovksi crystals onto his niece’s black satin bustier for her debs.

This may be his last collection for a|wear but other projects are in the pipeline. He has designed three outfits for Hickeys to promote their fabrics and his stage design work is thriving at Dublin’s Gate Theatre. And he remains a “ couturier du coin” making haute couture for private clients. “I’m a bit like a cat,” he says with a disarming smile. “Things always turn up for me.”