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Fashion Forward | 2012: The Year in Fashion

Last update - Tuesday, December 18, 2012, 06:49 By Tolu Omoyele

Since January last, FashionForward has been bringing you the real-life stories and experiences of the men and women riding the waves of their chosen careers in this glamorous and diversified industry we call fashion. This month we look back at the designers we met over the course of 2012, and look forward to a riveting 2013. See you in the New Year! 


Since January last, FashionForward has been bringing you the real-life stories and experiences of the men and women riding the waves of their chosen careers in this glamorous and diversified industry we call fashion. This month we look back at the designers we met over the course of 2012, and look forward to a riveting 2013. See you in the New Year! ...Tolu Omoyele

Top of the knit parade

Lisa Shawgi has interned and worked for crème de la crème of designers, from Lainey Keogh to Vera Wang. She was preparing for a career in Fine Art when she discovered Fashion and Textiles in her first year at NCAD. 

“I was always told that I possessed a natural ability in dealing with colour and texture and I should consider looking at fashion,” said the knitwear designer of Irish, Egyptian and Sudanese descent, “so I did and loved it!”

“…I’ve always wanted to be seen as some form of an artist, but it’s not just about creating clothes in fashion that I was drawn too, it’s the whole package. From research to photo shoots and fashion shows which I adore!”

She added: “There are certain skills which can be taught and sharpened, but I think having a natural talent for design comes from within. You have to think outside the box. Go with your gut instinct. Start big and outrageous, then tailor it down.”

Vintage wear with a hint of fantasy

Born into a creative and artistic family near Cape Town in South Africa, Lisa-Marie De Beer had a passion for the arts that led her to design dresses for weddings, school formals or debutante balls, and eventually to start her very own label, Lisa-Marie Dress Art. Her design and style is vintage-inspired, feminine with a hint of fantasy, but very wearable! 

“I have always been surrounded by the creation of beautiful things,” she said, “so it is something that kind of just happened naturally! I adore fashion and art! I remember making my first little dress for a Barbie doll when I was about four years old!”

 For Lisa-Marie, every piece “is made with deep thought, like an ever-changing art piece… I focus on intricate detail, colour combinations and different textures for each garment. Also, I use any fabrics or textiles I can get my hands on, whether it be lace, velvet, feathers, beads, fabric flowers – basically anything that excites me.”

Romantic style… with a dark edge

Couture designer Claire Garvey uses anything and everything for designs, from silk and velvet to PVC to rubber. She is exceptionally imaginative and conceptually creative, expressing femininity with elegance and grace – true made-to-measure couture that can stand side-by-side with the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Moreover, the Drumcondra-born woman herself is a breath of fresh air! Unassumingly kind, humble and free in spirit, she paints, writes, and collects jewellery and music boxes when not working on her unique, inventive designs, each an inspired story.

“I design a lot for personal customers from my shop in Cow's Lane [in Temple Bar]. Knowing how to make people relaxed and how to read what it is they want to wear and most importantly what it is they should wear to look good [is important, as is] trusting your own instincts at all times. After all, if you don't believe in what you do, who else will?” 

Olga and Alex share a passion for fashion

The duo Olga and Alex Minevich – who work under the Minevich Studio brand – are the prefect example of ‘keeping it in the family’. The husband-and-wife team work side by side from design concepts and production to photoshoots and brand image. They share two passions: love for each other and love of fashion. 

“Most of my initial ideas still come to me in my dreams,” said Olga. “I always have a notepad under my pillow, because I can wake up in a middle of night with some crazy idea and I need to quickly draw it down.

“I never considered myself a fashion designer [before I started]. I just loved to make dresses for myself when I was younger. Back in Estonia, the perception of a fashion designer was alien to me. I was not seen as [one], rather as a tailor who sews. 

“When I came to Ireland I was just continuing what I did best, which was simply making and creating personalised clothing, a statement of fashion for myself and for friends.”

Designs with a flair for the Fifties

Helen Moriarty is a fashion designer and milliner from Co Meath who is inspired by a potent combination of the natural world with 1950s style. Creativity is in her genes, as both her grandmother and mother made and designed garments. Helen also enjoys photography, music and walking in nature, finding the latter both relaxing and an endless source of inspiration. She is a keen supporter of women’s fashion, and her work was displayed at the 2012 International Women’s Day fashion show in Dublin.

“I attended NCAD where I obtained an Honours degree in Fashion Design,” she said of her background. “Prior to that I did a year in graphic design at the Athlone Institute of Technology after I left secondary school. Graphics was not what I wanted to do so I left and did a PLC in Coláiste Íde in fashion and textiles. The lecturers were very helpful and helped me to prepare my portfolio for the NCAD. All those courses helped me to get where I am.”

From high tech to high fashion

Linda Mirembe is a UK-based IT technician turned hat designer who juggles her burgeoning fashion career (and running her LinmiR label) with being a full-time mum. 

“I took courses in jewellery and hat-making,” said the Swedish-Ugandan, now living in London. “It is important to have a form of education, but I don’t think there are any requirements to be a successful fashion designer. The designer has to have the drive, motivation and the talent to make beautiful designs. There are a lot of designers that are self-taught.”

For Lisa, her hat creations “involve me having a particular design in mind, then I will decide on what material to use and mould it into shape. Then I’ll hand-stitch or use the sewing machine – usually it’s both. The last part is decorating.”


African fashion is on the rise!

Self-taught fashion designer Liza Bonsu is inspired by both modern and classical styles that are truly reflected in her fabulous creations under her fashion brand Yaa.Lia.

“To prepare myself for a design career, I attended seminars and short courses in fashion and business, and I volunteered for various fashion-related roles for more knowledge about the industry and general experience,” said the UK-based designer.

“I use a lot of African print fabric, mostly because it is so versatile – bright colours of course – and also because of the stories behind the prints and patterns. I also like the fact that they are never out of style or fashion. I brought some back from my recent trip to Ghana where most of the prints are produced.”

Jewellery gold that’s anything but standard

Janice Byrne is a Dublin-based goldsmith who has built a reputation for excellence through the creation of masterfully crafted jewellery. She works with a variety of precious metals to create contemporary jewellery that is inspired by nature. When making her jewellery she seeks to uncover the often hidden detail in natural objects and translate it into metal. She is both skilful and knowledgeable in the art of metal fabrication, from filing and soldering to forging, casting, and polishing. Her JLB Jewellery brand is unique, individualistic, exclusively handmade and very fashion-forward.

Her work “starts with an idea, which is translated to paper. From there, there are several different processes. Pieces are made from metal, which usually comes in sheet or wire form. Sometimes depending on the design you would begin with a wax carving and have it cast.”

She added: “You need basic manual dexterity and a creative flair helps, plus good eyesight and hand-eye co-ordination.”


The future’s hair – today!

I can honestly say, growing up I was not attracted to hair design – I wanted to be a fashion designer!” said UK-based creative hair designer Angela Plummer. “I started braiding hair at the age of 10 when my mum became ill and could no longer take care of our hair needs, so I took over the hair care for my whole family. Not long after I realised I was somewhat okay at doing hair, so my duties soon became a passion. I believe this was the start of my journey. I am also happy to say that my mum is still here with us and fully recovered from her illness.”

She added: “I know this may sound weird, but for me, my greatest achievement was turning my childhood passion into my career by leaving my nine-to-five job. In 2001 I was working in Selfridges Food Hall, and I heard a single by Macy Gray that gave me the push I needed. The line in the song was “Get up and do something, don’t let the days of your life just pass you by, ’cause you never really know till you try.” Leaving my job was the easy part; the hardest part for me was finding a way into the industry. So I called a UK magazine and asked if they would feature some of my work. This was my first magazine spread, which opened so many doors for me, and before I knew it I was working as a freelance/session hairstylist with clients as far away as the USA, and a few well-known faces in the UK.


The pattern for success

A textile designer guarantees bold expression from a unique perspective, as the mystical creations of the late Alexander McQueen demonstrate. Emma Noonan personifies the beauty and incredible nature of the multi-disciplinarian. As an independent artist and designer she is brave, creative and has great passion for her artwork, some of which is housed in the offices of the Taoiseach. Her use of colourful digital prints in particular makes her one to watch.

“In a nutshell,” she said, “the work of a textile designer involves creating the two-dimensional design and pattern that can be applied onto fabrics through printing. Or it can be used to actually create the fabric whether it’s knitted or woven. These fabrics can then be used as fashion fabrics or interior fabrics or even to create a new carpet. 

“Some designers can also create patterns and motifs that can be used in the production of greeting cards or wrapping paper. There are a number of routes you can take.”


From rural Kerry to New York’s runways

From the idyllic seaside village of Ballyheigue in Co Kerry to the fashion hotspot of New York City, Don O’Neill has come a long way. After leaving his rural home at the age of 19 to search for his place in this big world, his years of hard work paid off. Today, O’Neill is an award-winning celebrity designer, recently dressing actress Milla Jovovich for the cover of Ukraine Cosmo. Besides pursuing his passions for cooking, travel and science fiction, he is also the creative director and designer behind the brand Theia.

“Fashion is tough!” he said. “It can also be ruthless. We work 12 to 15 hours a day, most weekends, as more and more product is demanded of us. If you don’t perform you are out! The glamour of fashion shows and red carpet dressing is a tiny part of our world. Sitting with buyers in your showroom as they buy your line and spare you no criticism is the reality. Profitability and market demands is the reality, as I try to balance creativity with dressing real women who want to look good and don’t necessarily want fashion’s latest trend.

“You need to be passionate! You need to want breath, eat, sleep and live fashion! You need a determination and drive and to seek out every possible opportunity, with a huge amount of luck. There is a world of information at your fingertips thanks to the internet, so use it!


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