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Designer and brand creator at Mayo Clothing, Julie O’Connell, has had her work showcased in London Fashion Week, 080 Barcelona Fashion Week and Cork Fashion Week, as well as having her designs featured in Italian Vogue as part of collaboration with Roberto Piqueras. I asked her about her inspiration, her dream models, and what she has learnt from living and working in some of the most fashion forward cities in the world.
When did you decide to become a fashion designer?
I have always been excited by clothes, mainly styling since a very young age, and after my first fashion session in LSAD, I was completely hooked on the idea of knowing that the thrill I get from creating garments could be something I wake up to everyday. I got a start after college with internships here and there in different fields and with people who have vastly differing tastes. I would say it’s been an organic introduction to business and it’s been day to day since.
What are the best and worst things about being a fashion designer?
The best thing about being a designer is that I get to do what I love everyday, I don’t think there is a single element of designing or making that doesn’t excite me. The worst thing is the cost. Generally speaking, the higher the quality- be it fabric or trimmings- means that I’m going to be reaching deeper into my pocket.
Where do you find inspiration for your collections?
I’m usually inspired by what I am into at that minute. It could be a culture, city, subculture, movie, book, toy or just the love of a particular fabric. I would like to say there’s a process but really it just kind of comes out of me, usually in the middle of the night, and for no particular reason. To me it’s kind of like a eureka moment when my mind wanders and I forget what I was even thinking about and then WHAM, there it is as an idea or sometimes it could be a fully formed slant on something. I suppose its nice not to be too analytical on the how and why and just let it happen.
How do you select the materials you work with?
Travelling is always the best for fabric choices, however I have found once you have a good eye for colour and trimming the results can surprise you.I adore the fusion of casual and couture. I love one off pieces and of course vintage clothing. As well as Designing, I love customizing garments already made and creating alternative plastic accessories.
You’ve worked in Tokyo, London, Berlin and Barcelona. How have you found the fashion industry in these places and how have they influenced your work?
I believe my internships made me grow both as a designer and a person. Each place had its own quirks and cultural tapestries and I suppose the knock-on effects gave me a different gauge on the fashion industry. I found London to be cold and competitive but I learnt a lot. Tokyo was awe-inspiring and fashionably miles ahead- its like everything you’ve ever imagined and more is real and its walking down the street next to you or calling you from another shop window! Berlin was far too trend conscious, pretentious and boring for my liking. Barcelona was beautiful in every way- inspiring, creative and extremely welcoming- and it will always be my second home. Each place gave me skills and different outlooks both on fashion and life and I am really grateful that I was lucky enough to have these experiences. I have completed various internships with Michael Gkinis (Tokyo) ,JJ Hudson aka Dr Noki (London), Miss Daisy Blue aka Breda Casey (Co.Cork,Ireland) and Krizia Robustella (Barcelona) I am very grateful for all their support and for sharing with me their tremendous innovation,creativity and most of all their knowledge and experiences Within the fashion industry.
Originally from Cork, you’ve recently come home to Ireland. How did you come to the decision to return?
I came back to Ireland as I have a massive support system here from family, friends and fashion stores. I have not been in the country for longer than 6 months since 2010, so it’s nice to spend some time again with loved ones. I really do love the small but individual shops dotted around Cork. They are like small treasure troves that can spark something in me, shops like Miss Daisy Blue Vintage, Devilish Designs by Gina, Moonshine and Isobella Ru. Each store is beautifully unique in its own way and all well worth a visit if your in Cork!
How do you feel about the fashion scene in Ireland?
I think fashion is a personal thing- it’s down to the individual. I would like to see more diversity here in Ireland. I think we need to lend a little more support to individual boutiques and designers, to pay more attention to quality and the one-offs and refrain from shopping in high street stores, where one girl can be at times a clone of the next. Saying that I don’t think the weather helps and people need to keep pjs for indoors!
Your work is very playful and youthful. Who do you aim your clothing line at? Who would be your dream model to wear your stuff?
My original work is very playful as I love Tokyo street style and it’s taking me quite a while to shake it. At the moment I am developing my clothing line in the view to making it more wearable for all ages, but mainly I want the customer to feel unique and beautiful! M.I.A. or Jimi Hendrix would be my dream models, no question!
What designers inspire you?
I have a lot of favourite designers from Comme des Garçons to Jeremy Scott to Manish Arora. There really are dozens and its all about finding the right ones for you. Creatively I am inspired by my surroundings. I try to keep away from Magazines because I feel that what’s trending will generally affect your work if you let it.
What’s next for you? What collection are you working on now?
I am planning a trip to India for inspiration! And I am currently working on a collection that is a mishmash of global cultural regulations and casual street style .
What would you say to young aspiring designers?
I would say if you really love it, never give up. Trust your own instincts, be original and stop following trends.