Advertising | Metro Eireann | Top News | Contact Us
Governor Uduaghan awarded the 2013 International Outstanding Leadership Award  •   South African Ambassador to leave  •   Roddy's back with his new exclusive "Brown-Eyed Boy"  •  
Print E-mail

Seduced by fashion

Last update - Saturday, June 15, 2013, 11:08 By Tolu Omoyele

Angela Osondu is a dynamic artisan with a raw love and passion for creating aesthetically remarkable pieces. She specialises in the alluring and seductive world of bridalwear and corsetry, but with an edge - utilising tools not often connected with fashion like industrial metal grinders - as evident from her recent end-of-diploma fashion show…

Angela Osondu is a dynamic artisan with a raw love and passion for creating aesthetically remarkable pieces. She specialises in the alluring and seductive world of bridalwear and corsetry, but with an edge - utilising tools not often connected with fashion like industrial metal grinders - as evident from her recent end-of-diploma fashion show…


Hi Angela! Can you tell us a little about your background, and how you feel it prepared you for a career in design?

Well so far I have had four years of formal education in fashion. I spent a year in portfolio preparation for fashion and textiles, then a year studying fashion industry practice, and I finally just graduated from a two-year HND in Advanced Fashion Design.

I have learned so much in my years in college and I have come to understand so much more about the fashion industry and how the business works. In the year I spent studying the industry I got to take a step back from the making end and learn all about the business end. In the last two years I have really focused on fine-tuning my skills and learning as many new skills as possible to better prepare me for the industry.

As for my professional background, I started working in the fashion Industry in my first year of college when I was 17. I have interned for local stylists, designers, and have worked as a visual merchandiser and in sales. I currently work freelance for fashion and sewing school When Poppy Met Daisy. I have also worked with a lot of different photographers and stylists in the Irish fashion industry.

I just recently turned 21 and while I already have this wealth of experience, I still feel so young. I feel my background has given me the tools I need to venture out into this industry.


What’s for you now after finishing fashion college?

I just graduated from Bray Institute and I feel like the world is my oyster. I’ve never had so much freedom. I’m taking a well-deserved rest first and then I have a couple of different projects and shoots already lined up. I will also be starting work as a fashion contributor to Jorie Magazine, as well as hopefully becoming a contributing fashion blogger for a certain well-known online fashion platform.

I have another buying trip in the books for July as I’m currently in love with Amsterdam and the street markets and culture there. I am also looking forward to African Fashion Week in London in August, as well as hopefully a short trip to beautiful Italy for inspiration for my next independent collection in the autumn for S/S15. And I’m on the lookout for a stockist for my collection.


What drew you to fashion, and specifically to starting your own line?

For me fashion was a calling, and I know it’s been said before but that’s because it’s true! With fashion you either have the bug or you don’t. A passion for fashion is not something that you learn in design school, it’s something that one is born with.

For me growing up in a Nigerian family, I was always told that the only two acceptable career paths were to be either a doctor or a lawyer. So it wasn’t easy for me to express my thoughts and feelings about fashion growing up. It wasn’t until I was in my teens I took a stand for what I wanted and said it was fashion or nothing! I started sketching and designing aged 12, I bought myself my first sewing machine at 15, and I’ve been hooked ever since.


What is the most difficult aspect in launching your own label?

One of the most difficult aspects in launching your own label is the finance and business end of it all. Most designers can’t find the financial support required to launch their labels. I will always remember sitting in Collins Barracks listening to the great Neilli Mulcahy – one of Ireland’s leading fashion designers of the 20th century and who sadly passed away in May of last year – and I will never forget the one piece of advice she gave me while I was assisting at her stall at the Knit & Stitch Fair three years ago in the RDS. She said: “As a designer you need to study business, do a course! Even a night class in business management or accounting.”

Of course this shocked and horrified me, as I’m not one for numbers! She went on to explain and I didn’t really understand the relevance then, but today I understand it better. If you are going to run your own business, you have to be the designer, the accountant, the publicist, the machinist, the cutter, the tailor and the supervisor. And you have to do all these things until you can be resourceful enough to build your business and brand enough to hire and delegate tasks. You are your brand; it basically lives and dies with you.


You consider yourself Irish, but you are also African, with strong roots in Nigeria’s Delta region. How is this reflected in your designs?

Being African is a part of who I am. It’s a part of my identity and I think this definitely influences me subconsciously, and in the way I think and relate and in the way I see life. However, I think if I were to call myself an African designer I would need to be far more familiar with my heritage, and African design and culture, than I presently am.


As a designer you specialise in bridal, occasion and corsetry. What materials do you use?

I use a variety of materials depending on the collection. From lace to crepe, coutil, silks and chiffons, and of course metres and metres of tulle! For my latest collection BolSHE I used a lot of crepe, organdie, lace – all of which I sourced myself on a buying trip to Amsterdam – and tulle, as well as steel boning, busks and eyelets in the corsets. I actually found myself shopping in a hardware store for equipment for BolSHE! I had to learn to use equipment like metal cutters, Teflon tape, sanders and industrial grinders that I would never have gone near otherwise! I had to wear protective goggles and masks I looked like a mad scientist! It was certainly a challenging but exciting experience working with steel, and it was so much fun learning new things.


What else do you create?

I also create a few unique accessories like statement neckpieces and fascinators using fabric manipulation techniques to compliment my designs. I sell these pieces and make custom pieces on commission.


Do you outsource any of your design work or you do everything yourself?

At the moment as a start-out designer I currently make each piece myself. I find the personal touch really makes each piece that bit more special to myself as well as my clients. I’m definitely in the market for a stockist and a manufacturer to get the ball rolling so I can have a better reach. And I am always on the lookout for new opportunities in the industry. I have learned to always be receptive of new experiences so I never know on what path life will take me.


How did you come about your design techniques?

Design techniques are something that you expand with each new collection. Each design brings up its own host of pattern, sewing and finishing technique related issues that you have to solve for when you start and toile each new design. I’ve learned and developed some interesting manipulation techniques, both functional and decorative experimental techniques, in my last two years of college, a lot of which I have yet to utilise but look forward to putting them into good use in the near future.


What is your style? Do you have a style icon?

My style is a compilation of a few different styles, depending on my mood. It can be edgy, folky and vintage one day, and the next it can be clean cut, sleek and minimal. My aesthetic is about wearing what makes me happy and expressing how I feel through my style. I don’t wear what’s on trend just because it’s out there and everyone’s wearing it.

When it comes to jewellery, I like individual pieces, unique and vintage. I love sharing style tips and tricks and love up-styling my key wardrobe pieces to bring them from one season to the next.

My style icon is Ulyana Sergeenko, an extraordinary woman! I love how she’s so sleek and well put together. Her style has that ’50s Hollywood femme-fatale essence to it, but when she’s designing she is cool and collected in a wool jumper and skinny jeans. She’s a real woman who comes from a real place of hard work and ambition, not just an heiress or a celebrity turned ‘designer’. She is one of my favourite designers and someone I truly aspire to emulate.


In your experience, what is most challenging about a fashion design career in Ireland?

The problem with the fashion industry in Ireland is that Ireland is so small! Too small to contain the amount of talent and the various niches they all arise from. There is no real room to grow and experience before you’ve come full circle, and if you are not constantly moving you will get lost in the crowd.

It’s not easy to make a splash in the right Irish markets and especially if you don’t have the financial backing. There are so many new young designers emerging, you have to make a lasting impression. Finding the right niche and doing your market research is key.


What do you most enjoy about a fashion design career?

For me, I love the feeling of satisfaction I get after I know I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into the work, and I see it on the model with hair and make-up, catwalk ready, or I see it on my client and I see the vision I saw at the start of the project realised. It’s a rewarding feeling and it’s what drives me. I enjoy the end of a project as it signals a new dawn.


What is fashion, in your opinion?

For me fashion is a living, breathing organism. It’s ever changing and iconic, it’s multi-faceted and complex. And it possesses a completely symbiotic relationship with the arts, music and even literature yet stands independently of these things. It’s like what Vivienne Westwood said: “It’s a philosophy of life. A practice. If you do this, something will change, what will change is that you will change, your life will change, and if you can change you, you can perhaps change the world.”


What is your greatest design achievement?

I am a firm believer in the idea that you are only as good as your last design. So I would say my greatest design achievement is my current collection for S/S14, titled BolSHE and inspired by the strength, movement and discipline of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. It has most certainly been a challenging collection as I have had to learn a lot of new skill sets, such as the art of corset making, and I have had to become very versatile and resourceful in using some Victorian techniques.


What do people need to know about a fashion design career?

I think people need to understand that a career in fashion design is not all glamour and glitz and playing dress-up, but it can be very rewarding. Also people need to understand that there is a huge difference between a tailor, a dressmaker and a designer. Although the three can cross paths and the skill sets can interlink, a designer is not necessarily a dressmaker or a tailor.


What advice would you give a fashion newbie or student looking to become a designer?

Good luck – just kidding! I would say firstly, if you study fashion, be prepared for sleepless nights, restless days, crying fits and lots and lots of caffeine-induced sewing through the night – and possibly your fingers! Don’t think it will be easy because it’s not.

Don’t try to start a new brand or label until you have worked under one and got the experience you need. And don’t wait for college to be over before you start looking for work experience. You have to always keep moving, keep working and keep creative.

Experience, experience, experience! You can never have too much, but you can have too little. You are your brand so sell yourself and people will buy into your brand. And lastly, a little luck or a prayer from your mum, aunt or granny never hurt anyone.


What do you wish you had known before entering the fashion industry?

I wish someone had told me how hard it would be. Looking back, actually people did tell me but I chose not to believe them.

People who are not enlightened tend to dismiss fashion as frivolous or a waste of time. I’ve often had some ignorant people, even family members ask me when I’m going to grow out of it. The way I see it now, their ignorance is my source of strength. I would love to edify them but I know that may never be possible.


Where do you see the business in the long term?

There’s no telling where the business will go right at this minute as a few loose ends are still up in the air, but there is a possibility of going to Milan to gain some more experience and work in the couture industry. A trip to Nigeria to source a manufacturer and stockist there is also something I have been working on for a while, however the likeliest course is securing a stockist this year, building my new studio and working on building my brand to new heights. There’s no telling what heights the business will achieve, but it’s like they say: with God all things are possible.


What is your opinion of the term ‘new African fashion’?

I have yet to read the book by Helen Jennings to find out what all the hype is about. But the debate about what classifies as ‘African fashion’ is one we could talk about for hours. And it’s probably one for a different interview! The discussion of what the implications of the sudden rise in exports of batik and printed textiles from Africa could mean is a topic that really intrigues me and I would love to read and learn more about it. On a lighter note, I feel it is amazing that since around 2010 this ‘new African fashion’ has been on the rise and with the launch of platforms like the African Fashion Week in London it has brought a new avenue for emerging as well as recognised African-born and inspired designers to showcase themselves. And I’m all for whatever brings benefit to young designers like myself.


Do you have any closing thoughts?

Well I know some people often say ‘work to live, don’t live to work’, but I beg to disagree, because I feel more alive when I’m being creative. In saying that, of course I have other aspects in my life – amazing family, inspirational friends, my wonderful fiancé, etc. But I don’t view fashion as just my job, it’s a part of me – an extension of my persona. Like being African, it’s part of my identity and not something I can deny or just switch off.


- For more on Angela Osondu’s designs find her on Facebook and YouTube at FashionCapital1 or follow her on Twitter @fashioncapital1


Latest News:
Latest Video News:
Photo News:
Kerry drinking and driving
How do you feel about the Kerry County Councillor\'s recent passing of legislation to allow a limited amount of drinking and driving?
I agree with the passing, it is acceptable
I disagree with the passing, it is too dangerous
I don\'t have a strong opinion either way
Quick Links