Bairbre Power talks style, satin and size with Irish couturier Peter O'Brien, whose new collection for Arnotts goes on sale next Thursday
'I love things that are dramatic, but in a whispery kind of way." Peter O'Brien's deft touch at telling a modern fashion tale is very evident in his new 32-piece collection for Arnotts. He builds around classics, pared-back silhouettes and a strong tuxedo story which looks thoroughly feminine more than 120 years after the formalwear trend first debuted as a fad for men.
The new collection of dresses, coats, knitwear and separates has none of the theatrical frills you might expect from a couturier who has spent the summer in the south of France, working as costume designer on 'The Price of Desire', a new movie about Eileen Gray, the Co Wexford-born architect/ furniture designer.
"I'm never interested in being really fashionable because I think it is tedious and boring, and in six months' time you can't wear it anymore," says O'Brien, a Dubliner famous for his honesty and overwhelming desire to relieve Irish women of their fake tans, hair extensions and faux nails.
Prices in O'Brien's collection start at €90 for knitwear running to up to €495 for the most expensive of his six coats.
It is a thoughtful edit, and while he is strong on masculine tailoring and loves the whole Jane Birkin/Charlotte Rampling vibe of "cool girls who dress like boys", O'Brien is a true friend to women who crave dresses with sleeves and, better again, pockets.
"The kind of clothes I like and care about are the kind of clothes that people can pull out in 10 years' time and wear without looking ridiculous," he says.
"People have these preconceptions, 'I can't wear this, I can't wear that'. If it fits you, of course you can wear it, but we live in an age where the aesthetics of pornography rule, so everything has to be two sizes too small and people are uncomfortable about things that glide over the body."
A perfect example of the whispery drama O'Brien desires lies in his black, dropped-shoulder coat, which has an innovative, 'attached sleeve' detail. He uses this external, raw-edged feature to great effect on a white cotton shirt, seen here with wide tux trousers which have a statement satin stripe down one leg only.
Meanwhile, his short tuxedo jacket features satin revers and epaulettes, and, like a producer with a keen eye on his characters, O'Brien maintains that for best effect, the jacket should be worn "with high-waisted trousers and a pair of killer heels. No jewellery or accessories, just f***-off shoes; no stockings like a French woman, just bare legs and really high heels. Platforms are banished," he says.
There are a couple of strong gunas in the collection, including a full-skirted black dress with cream sleeves and cream yoke. "It is a nod," says O'Brien, "to a strapless slip dress, but, at the same time, you are covered."
Quoting the legendary Diana Vreeland, former editor of 'American Vogue', O'Brien points to her advice that everyone over 40 should have a uniform.
"I think everyone should have a uniform. There is less margin for error, so if you have a fabulous black jacket, a brilliant white shirt and the best pair of black trousers you can find, you don't need anything else. It is really simple.
"Your posh clothes should really be like your everyday clothes, just a better version," he concludes.