Sunday 21 January 2018

Focus on Irish Fashion: Caoimhe O'Dwyer

Caoimhe O'Dwyer ss2011
Caoimhe O'Dwyer ss2011

Sinead Van Kampen

Designer Caoimhe O'Dwyer returned to Ireland in 2003 to launch her intimate apparel range, having worked for Anna Sui in New York and Sarlie Couture in Rome. Fast forward seven years and with a La Perla collaboration firmly under her belt, her unique designs are now stocked in exclusive boutiques across Ireland.

We caught up with Caoimhe to talk Holy communions, surviving the recession and fancy dress disasters. Here's what she told Independent Woman:

When did you realise that you wanted to be a designer?

From a young age I always had an interest in art and making things. My mother and grandmother were always making clothes so I was involved in choosing fabric and patterns from a young age. It wasn't until I was studying in Paris that I knew my life was going to take a different course. Two years later I was in core year at NCAD and went on to specialise in fashion.

What was the first thing you designed?

I can remember choosing the fabric for my communion dress with my mother and getting fitted for it, but I can't say I really designed that. I was probably around 12 when I made a halterneck top in navy cotton fabric with large white polka dots. It had a sweetheart shape at the front and buttons opening down the front. With some help I also made a gather skirt in the same fabric. From then on I was very involved and it reached the point where I started making patterns and experimenting.

What is inspiring you at the moment?

This time of the year I love to go to the Botanic gardens and St. Ann's Rose gardens. Everything is in full bloom and you can't help but be inspired by the beautiful roses. I am always taking photos wherever I go, so I have a huge collection of images I can delve into. I am definitely inspired by the environment around me. Another influence in my work is antique lingerie - I'm always on the look out for interesting finds.

How would you describe your Spring 2011 collection?

My style is quite romantic and this tends to follow through season after season. I've built the collection inspired by the Peony Rose and some antique lace from the South of France. The colour palette is a delicate blush pink, with ivory, cream and beige with silk fabrics and Chantilly lace. Many of my key pieces work with an existing wardrobe and the more dramatic pieces can be worn to make a statement.

If you could choose a celebrity endorsement, who would it be and why?

Saoirse Ronan - it's great to see such young talent coming our out of Ireland. She is so young and fresh and understated, yet stylish.

Whose collection have you really been impressed by this season?

I've been really impressed by Sarah Burton this season. She has very big shoes to fill at McQueen and is doing so with ease. Like so many others I mourned the loss of such a great artist in Alexander McQueen but it is encouraging that his name will live on through the talent of others.

What is the one item every person should have in their closet?

A beautifully cut silk dress. Something that you can dress up or down and you'll get to wear from for years.

What was your most tragic fashion moment?

Fancy dress party in NYC. A Cleopatra fancy dress where a couple of lace curtains left little to the imagination!

Where do you like to shop?

Emporium Kalu is a mecca for special occasions pieces. Also Dublin's Drury Street has become known for small independent boutiques and of course Susan Hunter for lingerie. I also love to shop when I'm travelling. There is just something about finding little treasures in small boutiques and in flea markets when you are away.

Share one insider secret?

Sleep is the fountain of youth...

Who do you most admire, and why?

An amazing couturier I worked in Rome with by the name of Fausto Sarli. He is known all over Italy and worldwide for his beautiful couture. His ethos is beautifully crafted couture and, unlike many of the big fashion houses, the company have never gone down the merchandised route of selling sunglasses, beauty products and accessories.

How would you like your designs to be remembered?

I'd like to think that my designs were worn often and that the wearers had a good time wearing them. Many of my pieces are special occasion pieces and are timeless but dramatic. I'd like to think that they were worn several times over many years and I'd like them to be remembered alongside the parties, events and occasions to which they were worn. I like the idea that women of all ages wear my designs.

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