Thursday 19 April 2018

Focus on Irish Fashion: Mia O'Connell

A model wears a design by Mia O'Connell
A model wears a design by Mia O'Connell

Sinead Van Kampen

We might forgive Mia O' Connell for being caught up with the speed of her own success, having moved from college student to designer in just six short months. However, Mia has been designing bespoke creations for private clients since her Limerick college days, so the speed at which she has made the transition from student to designer is entirely earned.

We caught up with Mia to talk granny cardigans and the difficulties associated with running a fashion label from your bedroom.

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

It was only after doing my first fashion block in college that I realised that design was something I loved and was perhaps good at. Before that I had leaned towards textiles, but discovered the journey of design truly enjoyable.

What was the first thing you designed?

My first design project was based on the photographer Richard Prince. His images of biker girls, cowboys and nurses became the inspiration for my first collection which in turn got me entrance to my degree course at Limerick School of Art and Design.

What inspires you at the moment?

I find myself inspired by people and their relationships with each other and with objects. I conduct experiments to create my inspiration. I start with an idea like ‘how do sisters act differently’, and then I put together photography, film and diaries which in turn become the inspiration for a collection.

How would you describe your Spring 2011 collection?

My label is currently ‘on hold’ as I am concentrating on preparing for a masters degree. I continue to work creating bespoke pieces for clients and I continue to sell my range of accessories in The Design Centre in The Powerscourt Townhouse.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

My biggest challenge was in 2010 when I first established my own label. It all came about unexpectedly and I was faced with the task to produce and manufacture a collection from my bedroom. The collection grew, the space in my house reduced and I had to rope in members of my by now very understanding family. We made it happen!

Who would be your ideal celebrity endorsement?

In an ideal world rather than choose a celebrity I would choose a customer who loves my clothes and wears them with great style. My customer is my greatest endorsement.

Whose collection have you really been impressed by this season?

My all time favorite designer is Junya Watanabe. I adore his collections which are a beautiful mix of toughness and femininity. His clothes are empowering for women which is a great talent to provide that feeling to the women who buy his creations.

What should everyone have in their closet?

A piece by an Irish designer. As a country we have great talent and it is often forgotten by larger designers. Although Ireland is small we harbour some incredible people who work away in studios around the country and I believe every Irish person should encourage the industry.

What was your most tragic fashion moment?

During my second year at college I went through a phase of wearing second hand Granny cardigans.

Where do you like to shop?

Zara has that good combination of style at reasonable prices. In a dream world it would be Gallery La Fayette in Paris or Dover Street Market London.

Share one insider secret?

A very good friend once told me ‘pain is only temporary, glory is forever’ and it's a phrase I have used at many moments to see me through.

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