Monday 19 November 2018

Irish dress designer quickly guessed why he had to give Meghan some room for two: 'Mum's the word'

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attends a state dinner at the Royal Residence on October 25, 2018 in Nuku'alofa, Tonga
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attends a state dinner at the Royal Residence on October 25, 2018 in Nuku'alofa, Tonga
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend an official welcome at Consular House in Tonga on the first day of their visit to the country
Meghan wears a Don O’Neill Theia gown as she and Harry visit Tonga
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend an official welcome at Consular House in Tonga on the first day of their visit to the country
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Unveiling of the Labalaba Statue Meghan, Duchess of Sussex looking straight to camera on October 25, 2018 in Suva, Fiji
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, flanked by Tonga's Princess Angelika Latufuipeka, arrive at Fua'amotu airport on the main island Tongatapu in Tonga October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive for their farewell ceremony at Nadi airport on October 25, 2018
Actress Sarah Bolger with Don in LA wearing his sequinned jumpsuit
Oprah wears Don’s gold gown at the 2012 Oscars
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Irish designer Don O'Neill was asked to leave a little extra seam allowance in the dress he created for Meghan Markle - he immediately guessed why, but didn't reveal the secret at the time.

The Kerryman has been like a hatching hen for the last week in New York, scanning the news and social media "morning, noon and night" to see if Meghan Markle had worn the Theia ivory column gown he had dispatched to her, not once but twice.

Finally, it happened yesterday when the Duchess of Sussex stepped out in Tonga wearing Don's super elegant heavy crepe column gown with jewel neckline, side slit and flanged extended shoulders accentuated with hand-embroidered appliques of crystals and micro glass beads.

"I can't believe it," said Don at his Brooklyn home after hearing the news.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend an official welcome at Consular House in Tonga on the first day of their visit to the country
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend an official welcome at Consular House in Tonga on the first day of their visit to the country

It was an emotional 6.30am call as the Ballyheigue man revealed the drama, passion and clock-watching that went into fulfilling his first royal commission. By the time it had been made, Don knew, or at least suspected with good reason, that the Duchess of Sussex was pregnant before the rest of the world was told.

The stunning gown actually started out its fashion life as a turquoise dress in Don's recent Pre-Fall Theia collection.

"Meghan saw it and loved it. I heard from her stylist and they asked if I could make it in ivory so I did and rushed it to Kensington Palace," he told the Irish Independent. "My spring summer 2019 bridal show was just a week away but we stopped everything in my sample room and immediately went to work on the gown."

It was completed in two days and shipped and Don thought that was it until a second message came through.

The Duchess of Sussex loved his dress but as the stylist, her best friend Jessica Mulroney, explained there was "a caveat".

"The duchess loved the dress but they asked could I make it again in exactly the same size but with an extra seam allowance." Don says he knew immediately why this was required "but mum's the word, and with less than one week to my bridal show, all hands were on deck once more and we remade the gown. I literally had to run down Broadway that Friday night to catch the UPS truck, making it with just two minutes to spare."

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive for their farewell ceremony at Nadi airport on October 25, 2018
Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive for their farewell ceremony at Nadi airport on October 25, 2018

It's more than 30 years since Don got into fashion by accident, securing a place at a Dublin fashion college after winning an Irish Independent competition. Yesterday he became the first Irish designer to dress Meghan, the world's most photographed woman.

The good news is the feminine gown will be available for pre-order for $995 (around €875) on the TheiaCouture.com website. His exclusive stockist in Ireland is Costume on Dublin's Castle Market and his bridalwear is stocked in Folkster in Co Kilkenny.

At dinner with him in New York last May, Don spoke about how tough the fashion industry is becoming with major fashion stores closing in America and gown rental firms multiplying.

However, having Meghan as a client is a serious feather in his cap and will bring invaluable international exposure.

Irish Independent

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