Pleats take centre stage in Peter O’Brien’s new collection
Peter O’Brien’s winter collection for Arnotts reflects the designer’s fascination with pleats, along with strong tailoring and a touch of ‘frou’
‘I was feeling very pleaty,” says Peter O’Brien, with his customary reluctance at having to describe his latest winter collection, his sixth for Arnotts, which goes on sale next week.
“I love pleats and rarely do a play without them. I love how they move and give you a bit of ‘zoosh’. They are pretty yet still geometric and rigorous,” he explains.
Such details, along with bold, oversize coats, and more daring party dresses in velvet and chiffon, distinguish this collection which bears his unmistakable handwriting and colour palette, but with fresh new takes on form and line.
Fans will welcome, for example, the practical additions of detachable crepe de chine Peter Pan collars on daywear dresses.
Pleats, the backbone of Scottish kilts and of many an Irish school uniform, made the Japanese designer Issey Miyake famous, and whether concertina, knife or sunray, are ways of creating flyaway flounce through controlled volume.
O’Brien has used them in different ways – in double sunray circles of crepe for a party dress, knife edging the hem of a poplin shirt, adding surface interest to black culottes and in “techno” taffeta on an overdress.
That mixture is very much his style. “I love tailoring but a big part of me loves flou – frocks and floatiness – and that was kind of missing in recent collections, so in this one there is a little more than before.”
Maybe his continuing involvement with theatre is informing his visual approach; he has just finished two plays, designing the exquisite and much praised attire for Hedda Gabler at the Abbey and the elegant early 19th century costumes for A Month in the Country at the Gate.
“That was the earliest period I have ever done and we had to decide whether to hoop or not too hoop.”
Back at college this month, he is sharing his knowledge and expertise teaching costume and design for theatre and film at IADT in Dún Laoghaire and loving every minute of it. “I really love teaching and get so much from the kids. They are all fantastic,” he says, showing sketches by some of his pupils.
The winter collection features seven coats, including popular frock and Crombie styles, along with bolder shapes with big portrait collars, triangular seaming and oversize pockets. “I had a desire to do a shape that was completely not fit and flare,” he says. His relationship with the Portuguese factory that makes what he calls “pièces a mànche” – literally, tailored pieces with sleeves – has built up to a point “where I don’t have to be specific about the cut of the shoulders and the sleeves – they just get it and they are brilliant with heavyweight fabrics.”
The 30-piece collection, which includes hats, scarves and gloves, will be launched next Tuesday at a fashion show.
In the meantime, he is currently at work on samples for his first summer collection for the store, which will debut next year. It will be, he says, dress and coat based, because “it tends to be occasion wear rather than holidays, so I wanted something that could be worn for occasions, but not too formal, with a lighter more modern feel – and I have continued my pleating in that too.”