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From dressing Meghan Markle to Oprah Winfrey - Irish fashion designer Don O'Neill faces new fashion landscape as Covid-19 pandemic bites deep

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Ballyheigue-born designer Don O'Neill

Ballyheigue-born designer Don O'Neill

Ballyheigue-born designer Don O'Neill

He's dressed everyone from Meghan Markle to Oprah Winfrey for the Oscars and designer Don O'Neill now faces a new fashion landscape as the Covid-19 pandemic bites deep in the commercial world.

Ireland's best known fashion designer export in recent years, the 54 year old Kerry-born designer made a name for himself as creative director of 'Theia', dressing celebrities like Khloe Kardashian,Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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Oprah Winfrey wearing a Theia gold sequinned dress when she received an honorary Oscar in 2011

Oprah Winfrey wearing a Theia gold sequinned dress when she received an honorary Oscar in 2011

Oprah Winfrey wearing a Theia gold sequinned dress when she received an honorary Oscar in 2011

In a statement, Don O'Neill said "all of our lives have been greatly impacted by the global pandemic of Covid-19, and it is with a heavy heart that I announce that Theia is being re-structured and I and many others will no longer be part of it."

"I created the brand from a flash of inspiration when Theia, the goddess of light, sparked in my mind 11 years ago. It has been an extraordinary journey. I set forth to design luxurious evening and bridal dresses that would be cut and shaped to flatter all women, so that they would feel beautiful and confident, allowing their inner light to shine brightly which I achieved with the love, support and guidance of so many, many amazing people," he said.

Dr O'Neill who received a honorary doctorate from UCC in 2015 said "many possible paths lay before me now and I remain positive that a new exciting chapter of my life is waiting to be written."

During the lockdown Don began writing a book on his life story. "It has been amazing journey so far and I look forward to seeing how the story continues," the designer said.

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Meghan wearing Theia

Meghan wearing Theia

Meghan wearing Theia

Speaking today in Brooklyn where he lives with his florist husband, Pascal Guillermie, Don said "I am excited about what I can achieve next and can spread my wings further. The wellspring of love pouring in has been lovely. I've been so blessed and after 15 years, I cannot wait for the next chapter to happen."

The retail market has been badly hit in the US and with stores already in trouble, the collapse in the demand for occasionwear and the cancellation of weddings added to the commercial strains.

Don O'Neill was not originally bound for a career in fashion and T set out from his parents' B&B in Ballyheigue to train as a chef. He switched from food to fashion and attended the Barbara Bourke College of Fashion Design on a full scholarship he won after entering a competition in the Irish Independent.

He fought to make a career in haute couture a reality, even working in McDonalds in Paris to keep his fashion dreams alive in the fashion capital. He worked there with Christian Lacroix and after moving to New York, worked with evening-wear designer, Carmen Marc Valvo and spent three years as head of the Badgley Mischka diffusion label.

At Theia, he worked for the JS Group International which is headquartered in Canada. Press coverage of his red carpet dresses and bridal gowns was extensive over the years. However it was when the Irishman designed a bespoke ivory crepe column gown with flanged shoulders and hand embroidered appliques of crystals for Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, it garnered him front page coverage around the world. The social media hits went off the scale when she wore it on a royal tour in Tonga in October 2018.

Don O'Neill was last home in early March when he flew in with his SS20 collection to support fellow designer, Deborah Veale raise funds for St Josephs in Shankill, with a fashion show at Dublin City Hall. Guests that night included his close friend, Grainne Seoige, whose beaded wedding gown he made for her wedding to Leon Jordaan last December.

"I would love nothing more than to come home now and spend time with my family in Ballyheigue this summer but unfortunately we cannot travel at the moment but we will be back as soon as we can make it," said the designer.

Online Editors