Heroines: Claire O’Connor, Ireland’s brightest rising star in demi-couture
Photography by Angela Halpin fashion edited by Constance Harris
'Years ago, I met Ben de Lisi at a Design Centre show and asked him if had he any advice for young designers. He said, 'Don't do it! It's too hard. If I had my life over, I wouldn't do it'." Chuckling self-deprecatingly, Claire O'Connor, Ireland's brightest, rising star in demi-couture -- clothing which is approaching couture standard -- finishes, "Obviously, I didn't listen to him."
I first met Claire several years ago, after she had graduated from the Grafton Academy -- where she is now a guest lecturer -- and while she was working at Jen Kelly's atelier.
But Claire soon launched her own label. She set out creating bold, music-influenced, street garb, in the way Vivienne Westwood started out by designing for the Sex Pistols, and as Tommy Hilfiger did for America's hugely successful black artists. But the Irish market was not big enough to sustain such edgy fashion.
However, some discerning fashion mavens recognised Claire's talent, and she soon found herself busy with commissions for luxurious, "elegant, with a twist" couture pieces, which she found she adored creating.
"I love having something that no one else has. I like uniqueness. I love beauty," Claire explains. "In fashion, I love cloth and I love clothes. I love that personality shows through clothing. Fashion is one of those things people can't live without. It helps them through their day, or on their big day. In making clothes, you are making people happy."
It is this open-hearted expression that makes Claire a delight to work with. She is lit up by the love of creating, and seeing the magical transformation. "Fashion is about people," she says. "It is about the person; reflecting their individuality."
Claire is a petites mains -- the much-honoured title of haute couture's esteemed seamstresses -- a skill she combines with a courageous design heart, as evidenced by our dramatic shoot today. "I was inspired by medieval times and goddess mythology: a woman heroine. I tried to work that into the fabrics. One of the laces I used has a metallic coating, and I've done a lot of hand-beading to reflect light, using glass instead of sequins," she says.
In the last three seasons I've seen Claire's work leap in confidence. Her skill was never in question. Like McQueen, she's the type who picks up fabric and scissors and -- hey presto, you have a divine creation.
"The main reason I keep doing it is I see it on people and it and they come alive," Claire explains. "It is not like fine art that you stick on a wall and there it is. Fashion is art coming to life."
All clothes featured are by Claire O’Connor. For made-to-order enquiries, tel: (086) 894-3309, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or see www.claireoconnor.ie
Claire O’Connor stockists: Havana, Anglesea House, Donnybrook, D4, tel: (01) 260-2707, or see www.lhavanaboutique.ie
Diffusion, 47 Clontarf Road, Clontarf, D3, tel: (01) 833-1592, or see www.diffusion.ie
Design Centre, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 59 Sth William St, D2, tel: (01) 679-5718, or see www.designcentre.ie
Jewellery stockists: Noel Finan Fine Cut Diamonds, Galway (specialist dealer), tel: (091) 842-446, email email@example.com, or see www.finecutdiamonds.ie
Barry Doyle Design Jewellers, Upstairs, 30 George’s St Arcade, D2, tel: (01) 671-2838, see www.barrydoyledesign.com
Photography by Angela Halpin at Jang Productions, tel: (086) 870-5340, or see www.jangproductions.net or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Produced by Jason Foran at Jang Productions Styled by Claire O’Connor Make-up by Nadia Macari, see
Hair by Sabrina Bermingham at Foundation, see www.foundationhair.com
Model: Kate Sheridan at
Compton Model Agency, see www.compton.ie
Special effects by Team FX, see www.teamfx.ie
Electrical Crew: Dermot Coleman,
Mark Lawless, and Ian Kearney, see www.cine-electric.ie
Shot on location in Co Wicklow