Friday 2 December 2016

'I'm the happiest girl in Ireland' - Dublin designer set for success as her dress is selected by Vogue Williams for TV Awards

Sasha Brady

Published 21/01/2016 | 07:46

Vogue Williams and designer Shauna Harrison. Photo credit: Shauna Harrison/Independent.ie
Vogue Williams and designer Shauna Harrison. Photo credit: Shauna Harrison/Independent.ie

Attracting the attention of celebrities and fashion insiders is every young designer’s dream so when Vogue Williams wore a dress by relatively unknown designer Shauna Harrison to last night’s National TV Awards, it made people sit up and notice.

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The Dublin girl’s design placed Vogue on some of the best-dressed lists from the Wednesday night’s awards ceremony as well as an invitation to feature on Gok Wan and Fearne Cotton’s new fashion show on ITV on Thursday night: Fearne and Gok: Off The Rails.

Vogue Williams arriving at the National Television Awards 2016 held at The O2 Arena in London. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire
Vogue Williams arriving at the National Television Awards 2016 held at The O2 Arena in London. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire

“Vogue first discovered my designs on an Independent.ie article. She emailed me after reading it and asked me to design a dress for the National TV Awards. I was shocked,” says Shauna.

“I couldn’t believe I had been given the opportunity to make a gown for such a huge, televised event - let alone create the dress within a 12-day timeframe.

Vgue tries on the final design before the. Photo: Shauna Harrison/Independent.ie
Vgue tries on the final design before the. Photo: Shauna Harrison/Independent.ie

While Shauna admits she was initially overwhelmed, once the pair had agreed on a final design, everything came about perfectly.

The design process saw the two meet up to discuss Vogue’s style preferences and the shapes in the 25-year-old designer’s final collection which is what inspired the TV presenter to contact Shauna initially.

The Grafton College-graduate then came up with ideas for the dress and proving that inspiration can hit at any time and place, the final design was sketched on a Bus Eireann bus as Shauna journeyed home one evening in January (the number 133 to Greystones if you’re hoping for the same level of inspiration).

“Working to such a tight deadline meant that Vogue only got to see the completed dress two days before the awards show. There was no room for error. I was terrified. Thankfully she loved it. The colour, the shape, the fit… it was perfect.”

The final sketch for Vogue Williams' National TV Awards dress. Illustration: Shauna Harrison
The final sketch for Vogue Williams' National TV Awards dress. Illustration: Shauna Harrison
Illustration: Shauna Harrison

Upon meeting Vogue, Shauna got another surprise when she received a phone call from ITV requesting to fly her to Manchester to film a segment for Fearne and Gok: Off The Rails, featuring Vogue’s dress.

“When they called I was overwhelmed. I didn’t actually realise it was ITV on the phone. I couldn’t understand it all. I was shocked.”

Shauna Harrison Design (top with detachable cape €95, skirt €200)
Shauna Harrison Design (top with detachable cape €95, skirt €200)

Many young designers in Ireland will understand the struggle of trying to carve a full-time career in the fashion industry. For Shauna, the opportunities seemed limited in unpaid internships and lack of job openings and she questioned whether she could fulfill a career in fashion.

"I always question myself and I have experienced the unpaid end of the industry. Working for free gives you an insight of what it takes and how hard you have to work just to get your name out there," she says.

Vogue Williams arriving at the National Television Awards 2016 held at The O2 Arena in London. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire
Vogue Williams arriving at the National Television Awards 2016 held at The O2 Arena in London. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire

Shauna's was influenced by her grandmother growing up and it was through her that her interest in fashion was peaked.

"My nana was a dress maker and she used to make clothes for myself and my sister. I always loved the idea that nobody else had them, it made them so much more special. This always stuck with me growing up.

"I studied in UCD for a year before dropping out to work on a portfolio to get to fashion college."

The Rathfarnham girl eventually got into Grafton College where she specialised in wool and separates collections and graduated in June 2015.

Shauna Harrison design
Shauna Harrison design

"My designs are feminine but always have something a little different to them. My goal when designing a garment is always to make the person who will be wearing it to feel the most beautiful and classy woman in the room," she says.

So with a great start to 2016, what are her goals for the rest of the year?

"I will be debuting my first evening wear collection this year which I hope will help establish my name as an Irish designer."

"It can be difficult to get get yourself recognised, especially in Ireland. The awards have such a huge audience so I couldn't have asked for better exposure. I hope this will be a platform from which I can use to start my own successful label."

She adds: "I'm literally over the moon with the response the dress has received so far I'm delighted. I'm the happiest girl in Ireland."

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