Friday 24 November 2017

Say yes to the dress - with inspiration from Don O'Neill

'Emma' embroidered V-neck gown with all-over petal detail; 'Danielle' tulle veil with matte-petal detail, prices on application
'Emma' embroidered V-neck gown with all-over petal detail; 'Danielle' tulle veil with matte-petal detail, prices on application
'Alexis' gown with beaded detail, price on application
‘Calista’ Chantilly-lace gown with tulle skirt, price on application

'It all started with my signature Petal gown. It's covered in hundreds of thousands of laser-cut discs, each one sewn on with a teeny little pearl," says Don O'Neill. The dress, in ivory, was part of his mainline evening-wear collection, Theia, but stores that also sold bridal wear started to see huge sales to brides. "They kept reordering it. It wasn't your typical fussy, princess-style meringue. And they began to ask if I could do more dresses like this," he explains.

Don O' Neill is the Kerry-born, New York-based designer of evening-wear range Theia, whose dresses have been worn by Oprah, Taylor Swift, and Annette Bening. More than five years ago, he launched a bridal collection, aimed at women looking for something other than the traditional-style gown.

"A lot of the girls I know in New York who are getting married are in their 30s. They're not your typical 21-year-old Southern bride. That younger girl is still very attached to her Disney-princess years. Her vision of her wedding dress is still the big Cinderella 'princess' gown," Don says. "I feel like once the girls come to New York, they drift away from that. They discover who they are, and they want something clean and simple and elegant." It's this sophisticate Don has in mind when he is designing his bridal line. "She wants to look beautiful, chic and elegant. She does not want a meringue, or a big fussy dress," he says.

Originally, the collection was created with what Don terms 'destination weddings' in mind. "You're heading down to the Caribbean, or Florida, or to California to get married in an orchard," he explains. "The idea of a destination dress is it's easy to travel with; you don't need to book an extra seat on the aeroplane because your dress is so huge. You just roll it in your bag and off you go; barefoot on the beach, nice and easy."

'Alexis' gown with beaded detail, price on application
'Alexis' gown with beaded detail, price on application

As the success of the line took off, Don added in some of his signature beaded slip dresses - a particularly flattering and comfortable way to do body-con, he points out. "One of the reasons that beaded dresses are so successful is because of the way that the patterns of beads are designed on the body; these are optical illusions to make you look smaller. Even if you don't have a perfect waist, there's still a pattern to give you the visual of a waistline. The hips are curved, scalloped. All these things are built into it to make you look amazing."

Eventually, he added some dresses with fuller skirts, along the lines of traditional bridal styles, but still keeping everything soft; no crinoline under full skirts, all very easy to wear. Folkster Bridal in Kilkenny is the line's Irish stockist. It's a destination store for brides looking for something more akin to an evening dress than a wedding dress. "We're a perfect match," Don remarks. "Because I'm not your typical, traditional bridal designer. And Folkster is not your typical bridal destination."

Photography by Emily Quinn

Styling by Don O'Neill

Words by Liadan hynes

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

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