Friday 24 November 2017

Heroines: Claire O’Connor, Ireland’s brightest rising star in demi-couture

Photography by Angela Halpin fashion edited by Constance Harris

Leather and silk jacket, €925; lace beaded dress, €795, both Claire O'Connork, made to order at Havana. Headpiece, €275, made to order, Claire O'Connor. Diamond pendant, €2,850, Noel Finan Fine Cut Diamonds.
Leather and silk jacket, €925; lace beaded dress, €795, both Claire O'Connork, made to order at Havana. Headpiece, €275, made to order, Claire O'Connor. Diamond pendant, €2,850, Noel Finan Fine Cut Diamonds.
Silk evening dress, €945, Claire O'Connor, Diffusion; Design Centre. Diamond pendant, €3,500; diamond ring, €12,500, Noel Finan Fine Cut Diamonds. Shoes, stylist's own
Leather and handmade-lace beaded coat, €2,295, Claire O'Connor, made to order at Havana. Silk and handmade-lace evening dress, €1,195, Claire O'Connor, Design Centre. Headpiece, €425, made to order, Claire O'Connor. Faberge-egg pendant, €4,500, Noel Finan Fine Cut Diamonds
Silk and handmade-lace beaded dress, €1,995, Claire O'Connor, made to order at Havana. Bangle, €159, House of Harlow, Design Centre. Shoes, stylist's own
Silk dress, €1,295, made to order, Claire O'Connor. Silver choker, €500, Barry Doyle Design Jewellers. Gents' diamond ring, €9,500, Noel Finan Fine Cut Diamonds

'Years ago, I met Ben de Lisi at a Design Centre show and asked him if had he any advice for young designers. He said, 'Don't do it! It's too hard. If I had my life over, I wouldn't do it'." Chuckling self-deprecatingly, Claire O'Connor, Ireland's brightest, rising star in demi-couture -- clothing which is approaching couture standard -- finishes, "Obviously, I didn't listen to him."

I first met Claire several years ago, after she had graduated from the Grafton Academy -- where she is now a guest lecturer -- and while she was working at Jen Kelly's atelier.

But Claire soon launched her own label. She set out creating bold, music-influenced, street garb, in the way Vivienne Westwood started out by designing for the Sex Pistols, and as Tommy Hilfiger did for America's hugely successful black artists. But the Irish market was not big enough to sustain such edgy fashion.

However, some discerning fashion mavens recognised Claire's talent, and she soon found herself busy with commissions for luxurious, "elegant, with a twist" couture pieces, which she found she adored creating.

"I love having something that no one else has. I like uniqueness. I love beauty," Claire explains. "In fashion, I love cloth and I love clothes. I love that personality shows through clothing. Fashion is one of those things people can't live without. It helps them through their day, or on their big day. In making clothes, you are making people happy."

It is this open-hearted expression that makes Claire a delight to work with. She is lit up by the love of creating, and seeing the magical transformation. "Fashion is about people," she says. "It is about the person; reflecting their individuality."

Claire is a petites mains -- the much-honoured title of haute couture's esteemed seamstresses -- a skill she combines with a courageous design heart, as evidenced by our dramatic shoot today. "I was inspired by medieval times and goddess mythology: a woman heroine. I tried to work that into the fabrics. One of the laces I used has a metallic coating, and I've done a lot of hand-beading to reflect light, using glass instead of sequins," she says.

In the last three seasons I've seen Claire's work leap in confidence. Her skill was never in question. Like McQueen, she's the type who picks up fabric and scissors and -- hey presto, you have a divine creation.

"The main reason I keep doing it is I see it on people and it and they come alive," Claire explains. "It is not like fine art that you stick on a wall and there it is. Fashion is art coming to life."


All clothes featured are by Claire O’Connor. For made-to-order enquiries, tel: (086) 894-3309, or email, or see

Claire O’Connor stockists: Havana, Anglesea House, Donnybrook, D4, tel: (01) 260-2707, or see

Diffusion, 47 Clontarf Road, Clontarf, D3, tel: (01) 833-1592, or see

Design Centre, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 59 Sth William St, D2, tel: (01) 679-5718, or see

Jewellery stockists: Noel Finan Fine Cut Diamonds, Galway (specialist dealer), tel: (091) 842-446, email, or see

Barry Doyle Design Jewellers, Upstairs, 30 George’s St Arcade, D2, tel: (01) 671-2838, see

Photography by Angela Halpin at Jang Productions, tel: (086) 870-5340, or see or email

Produced by Jason Foran at Jang Productions Styled by Claire O’Connor Make-up by Nadia Macari, see

Hair by Sabrina Bermingham at Foundation, see

Model: Kate Sheridan at

Compton Model Agency, see

Special effects by Team FX, see

Electrical Crew: Dermot Coleman,

Mark Lawless, and Ian Kearney, see

Shot on location in Co Wicklow

Sunday Independent

Promoted Links

Style Newsletter

Stay on top of the latest fashion, beauty and celeb gossip in our Style newsletter.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in this section