‘When you get a chance like this, you clear the decks,’ say designers dressing Irish stars for Oscars
Three fashion designers have spoken about their excitement and pride at being asked to design bespoke pieces for Ireland’s Oscar-nominated teams, who are heading off to the 95th Academy Awards show on March 12.
“I’m thrilled to have been asked to design for two clients for this year’s Oscars,” says Galway-born designer Caterina Coyne, who has her own store in LA, located at Sunset Plaza.
The former Riverdance principal dancer, who trained at the Grafton Academy of Fashion Design, is well placed if any last-minute issues arise on the red carpet – as she lives literally two minutes walk from the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held.
During the awards season, Caterina would normally hear the news helicopters with camera crews buzzing overhead – but this year’s event is all the more personal, and is destined to put a focus on her work and her shop where she stocks six Irish designers, in addition to her own brand.
Sara O’Neill of Éadach – who is stocked in Caterina’s store and already has US fans – is dressing three members from the An Irish Goodbye contingent in her Children of Lir and Róisín Dubh prints.
“It’s a really exciting time creatively. Brilliant people doing great things and shining a positive light on Northern Ireland.
"To have three of these people wear Éadach to the Oscars is a privilege. They are as passionate about this place as I am. We are all storytellers in our own ways, so it’s a perfect partnership,” said Sara, who lives in Castlerock, Co Derry.
Actor Seamus O’Hara, who plays Turlough in An Irish Goodbye, will have one of Sara’s Éadach pocket squares worn conspicuously in his jacket on the Hollywood red carpet, like he did at the Baftas.
His wife, Mary-Ellen O’Hara, an Emmy-winning casting director, is wearing an Éadach gown, as is Seamus’s agent, Shelley Lowry. This will be Shelley’s second times at the Oscars, having been invited last year by the producers of Belfast.
For designer Deborah Veale and actress Carrie Crowley, theirs is a relationship that started as swim pals and has now become a fashion one.
After working together for the Baftas (where Carrie wore a burgundy one-shouldered velvet gown) and for the New York premiere (Carrie wore green lace for that one), it’s now pedal to the metal at Deborah’s studio in Ballymount, Dublin 24, to get the red-carpet dress finished in time.
“This kind of pressure is exciting, and it really is about incorporating our style with the essence of Carrie Crowley,” said Deborah.
“It’s lovely when Carrie comes to the studio. The whole team are invested in this dress for the Oscars – and it’s a wonderful thing for our business as well,” she said.
After 30 years in business, Deborah specialises in tailoring and corporate wear, and her daughter Sorcha has joined her in the business.
“The last high energy gig I did was for President Mary McAleese, for Queen Elizabeth’s visit. She wore my tailored coats and also the blue silk and organza long coat and dress for the state dinner at Dublin Castle.
“What I can say about Carrie’s dress for the Oscars is that it is very glamorous. Our signature handwriting is less is more – but this dress is all about the luxury detailing.
"I’m working with the most exquisite fabrics and attention to detail. As a designer, when you get an opportunity like this, you clear the decks and you get to make space for the creative.
“We saw the movie before we ever started working with Carrie and were incredibly moved by it,” says Deborah. “My eight-year-old niece came to live with me for two years when my sister was ill, and then went back to London – so the movie resonated with me.”
Busy with acting work, Carrie told me that working with Deborah and her team has been “such a joy”.
“She and I were already swim friends, and she knows I’m not particularly dressy as a rule – but she has somehow managed to make me look both totally comfortable and a little bit fabulous in her designs – so win-win.”
Caterina Coyne and Sara O’Neill are members of the Council of Irish Fashion Designers, and they are both showing at the Arc Cancer Support fundraiser in the RDS tonight.