Wednesday 28 September 2016

Original perfection - how the Claire O'Connor label is the essence of true couture

Published 21/03/2016 | 02:30

Silk-jersey crop-top with pearl embellishment, made to order, €1,195; silk print skirt with pearl embellishment, made to order, €5,995.
Silk-jersey crop-top with pearl embellishment, made to order, €1,195; silk print skirt with pearl embellishment, made to order, €5,995.

Claire O'Connor first emerged on the design scene a little over 10 years ago, when 'demi couture' was the buzzword in fashion.

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In those days, it implied a a kind of friendly fashion anarchy, a slight punk-ness to a designer creation, making it individual and unique, and the wearer a true 'original'; a fashion maven.

Today, one might say Claire is a demi couturist as much as ever; she still creates one-off, extraordinary pieces that play on conventional design.

But really, there is no 'demi' about her work now. The Claire O'Connor label today is about innovation, pure luxury and hand-made exclusiveness - the essence of true couture.

Claire's own need to shake things up triggered the change. Two years ago, she decided to live and work in London, working first at Bastyan, and then as a leather specialist, while also studying at Central St Martins, to upgrade her skills.

"I wanted to be where I am now," Claire tells me when we meet in London. "I moved to London because being here raises my game. I did a lot of things; training and learning, moving my work up a notch to get to the next level, honing my skills, learning how to perfect things, learning about pattern, fit and cut. As a result, I think my fit is a lot, lot better. No one else would probably notice these changes, but I am happier."

The high-end market notices everything. To succeed in supplying to the discerning customer, attention to detail is essential, and perfection is a must. Happily, Claire's need for perfection meets the requirement of that market. Thus everything - from the digital prints on fabrics, to the lavish hand-embellishment of pearls, sequins and Swarovski crystals on garments - is unique, all devised and created by Claire O'Connor.

She even went to Florence to learn how to make bespoke handbags in the manner of Hermes.

"I am an intuitive designer," Claire says. "I don't sketch things out. My starting point is something like a fabric or a shape. The starting point for this collection came from pearls and oysters. I designed my prints around them. It was all done in line with what I was feeling."

Claire O'Connor's new spring/summer collection is available from the Design Centre, in Dublin. It features sumptuous silks, leathers and shearlings with rich embellishment which, in some cases, took hundreds of hours to do. Several pieces are made to order. No wonder she is fast becoming a go-to designer for the red carpet in London and LA.

"It's been quite a journey. I started out designing at Bastyan, but all the while I was doing private commissions here in London, designing dresses exclusively for the couture customer," Claire says. "Now I am back designing a full collection. It's like I have come full circle. And, you know, I am happy about that."

Photography by Kristin Brynn Costello

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

Sunday Independent

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