The tech leader who became an LGBTQI+ stylist: ‘They are attracted to my style, my energy, my colour’

Clodagh Cruddas left the ‘toxic’ tech industry to pursue her fashion dream. To mark this year’s Dublin Pride Festival, she collaborated with a former Alternative Miss Ireland on a photoshoot

‘J‘Adore Dior’, a yellow dress and jacket were made by Irish designer Ro Molloy who specialises in bridalwear. The yellow flowers were added for impact by Pauline, Peaches’ mother. Photograph: Joe Duff
Clodagh Cruddas and Peaches: dress and jacket by Irish designer Ro Molloy. Photograph: Joe Duff

For her 49th birthday last year, Irish woman Clodagh Cruddas flew to New York to meet her hero, the legendary stylist and costume designer Patricia Field. In her city boutique, Field gave her encouragement and advice.

It was an important moment in Cruddas’s life: a symbol of how far she had come. Now a personal stylist with many fans in the LGBTQI+ community, Cruddas spent nearly 30 years as a successful leader in US tech companies in Dublin and London before quitting to launch her styling business and follow her long-held passion for fashion.

From Drumcondra, raised by grandparents and schooled in Mount Temple, Cruddas’s love affair with styling began as a young child, when she would watch her grandmother apply red lipstick, throw on a fur coat and waltz down the road to the local shops with two or three Pomeranians in tow. Having left school in the 1990s (where she remembers wearing jeans inside out), Cruddas moved to London to work in digital technology before returning to Dublin and working for a number of other tech companies, winning many sales awards.

When we meet in the Westbury hotel in Dublin, she describes the experience and those 25 years as “toxic, very passive-aggressive. You need a thick skin, strong work ethic and a lot of grit to be successful”, adding that it also offers opportunities for travel and high earnings.

J'Adore Dior, the yellow dress and jacket were made by Irish designer Ro Molloy who specialises in bridal wear. Photograph: Joe Duff

An interest in styling was fuelled by seeing makeover experts Trinny & Susannah and their early 2000s TV series What Not to Wear on BBC. Cruddas did a fashion styling course and started to acquire clients, but she had to park her plans as she was then a single mother supporting an eight-year-old child. The opportunity to revive her business came after Covid-19, when there were many tech redundancies. With the support of her husband, she decided to quit and launched her Instagram page featuring style videos.

“I started getting business through my page and a big gay following and other transgender individuals,” she says. “Many wanted advice on how to style their shape and were transitioning and needed to know how to look feminine and soften the silhouette.”

She recalls one individual who came out at 68, after the death of their mother, and another wearing a dress for the first time. “I didn’t come from this world, they found me,” she says. “They are attracted to my style, my energy, my colour.”

Clo and Peaches wearing disco clothes from Clo Muse's archive. Photograph: Joe Duff

To mark this year’s Dublin Pride Festival, Cruddas has collaborated with Peaches Queen, the talented Irish star and youngest ever Alternative Miss Ireland, on a photo shoot seen here titled “Love is Love”, with three looks – Two Queens Tying the Knot, Disco Divas and J’Adore Dior.

“We started to collaborate three or four months ago. We both love Galliano, McQueen and Daphne Guinness. Peaches Queen’s mother Pauline was head of costumes for pantomimes in the Gaiety and used to make her costumes. When Luke is in drag, she is Peaches Queen, very glam, very colourful. We decided to have some fun with this shoot with Pride coming up.”

When it comes to style, the most important message, according to Cruddas is that “we are all vulnerable and feeling fabulous in your clothes and wearing them as armour every day elevates confidence. My style armour has carried me through many tough meetings over the years.”

Her three style tips are: “1. Standing tall: the first thing I do with my clients is look in a full-length mirror. I stand behind them, push their shoulders back, raise their head and have them look at themselves standing tall and proud. Walking with your shoulders back and head held high adds inches and imparts an air of confidence. 2. Colour – people come to me specifically about how to wear colour. Tone of the colour and skin tone are important. Women are afraid of colour and tend to hide behind darker greys and blacks, so they go unnoticed. 3. Accessories: Invest in something, be it jackets or shoes, look after it and bring it to life every now and then. I often recycle what I have and don’t like throwing things away.”

What brings Clo most satisfaction is seeing how people can be transformed through what they wear. Photograph: Joe Duff

Her consultations take place in her home in Rush, overlooking the Rogerstown Estuary. “I have converted a room which has vintage, designer and high street clothes and it’s where I play dress up,” she says.

What brings her most satisfaction is seeing how people can be transformed through what they wear. “I have won a lot of sales awards but never got emotionally involved [with them], whereas when my first client said in her review that I had transformed her life, it made me cry. What I do is very fulfilling and rewarding.”

Photographer: Joe Duff; stylist Clodagh aka Clos Muse; make up Tatiana Vening: Models: Peaches Queen and Clodagh Cruddas. Check out her Instagram which is full of style tips and videos.