I love a designer who is unafraid to task risks and really allows their personality and style to come through in their garments. And Chloe Dougan from Chloe Dougan Designs is one such designer. She is an amazingly talented designer whose talents have also caught the eye of the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards 2017 and they have noted her as ‘One to Watch’ this year! I am delighted to be featuring her today and I hope that you enjoy the interview.
Have you always been interested in design?
I have always known I was going to do something creative, when I left university I was uncertain as to where my work was going to take me. I have always loved drawing and initially thought it was something I was going to pursue, but after my Graduate fashion show when I sold some pieces from my collection I realised that Fashion and textiles were my calling.
Your pieces are edgy, strong and beautiful. Where do you find your inspiration?
I normally fall in love with fabrics first before I even begin to think about the design of a piece. I follow fashion shows and blogs but find my inspiration when I’ve gone fabric shopping or ordered new leather skins. I drape the fabric over my mannequin and begin cutting and pinning- and this is how I begin my design process.
You have used a mix of textiles/materials in your pieces. Do you have a favourite material to work with?
I love to work with leather, suede and lace. Each collection I do will have aspects of these involved. I also try to challenge myself to use more innovative fabric, in one collection I used metallic fabric that was used on the costume set of Game of Thrones, in another collection I used chainmail.
Can you please tell us a bit about your path to being a fashion designer?
I studied Textile Art, Design with Fashion in the University of Ulster, Belfast. I didn’t really enjoy my time at university I preferred the social life more than going to class and the tutors didn’t always see eye to eye with my ideas. It wasn’t until the second semester in final year when I realised I really enjoyed making clothes and the tutors saw the last minute determination in me- they decided to make me “Artist in Residence” once I graduated- which meant I had a free studio space to work and develop my brand and also mentor the final year students. After that year I was awarded a Residency at the Duncairn Culture and Arts Centre which is where I am currently based. I teach sewing and fashion workshops now and I have a place for clients to come for fittings which are great.
Do you think it is important for aspiring designers to undertake some formal training before trying to launch a brand?
I think work experience is essential to any growing brand. I used to think fashion design was a glamorous job and its the opposite- I’m normally in my DMs and covered in threads! I did work experience with a fabulous local designer called Una Rodden and I watched how hard working her and her team were – they really inspired me.
Your website and social media channels are really well done. Especially the website – very modern and easy to navigate. How important do you think it is for designers to be visible online?
Online selling and marketing are so important these days- we are all glued to our phones! The positive though is that I can keep my audience in the know with any fashion shows I’m doing or let them see what new garment I’m making, so its great for awareness and showing people what I’m about. I don’t sell via my website though it’s something I’m working on at the moment, I sell via Depop and Facebook.
Your ‘Story of a Dress’ was quite moving and really well written. Do you like doing commission pieces?
I love doing them! Making a made to measure, a bespoke piece is such a personal service and its great getting to know my clients more, we usually end up gossiping!
Is there anything that you wish you had of been told before your started designing?
Yes- that its 10 times harder than I imagined and requires all my extra time and money! But its totally worth it.
What has been your proudest moment to date in your career?
Quite early on I had been doing the Belfast Fashion week shows and the director Cathy Martin wore one of my Mongolian pieces to an event in London at Eva Longoria’s Charity event- Global Gift Gala- here she met loads of celebs and got a selfie with Victoria Beckham who commented on how she loved Cathys Mongolian coat! Naturally, I was over the moon!
I’m also pretty proud of doing my fashion workshops- this time last year I would have found it almost impossible to stand up and speak let alone teach 10 people how to sew and design so that’s a personal achievement for me.
What does the future hold for Chloe Dougan?
I have the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards in Galway in March where I was nominated as Designer to Watch which I’m pretty excited about. I’m also working on trying to sell my clothing and accessories through my website and I have a cool Fashion show in November that I’m showing my Autumn/ Winter looks at- 2017 has been great so far!
A massive thank you to Chloe for the interview – I simply adore her work so it was an honour featuring her today. I would highly recommend that you take a look at her work on her website, and you can also follow along with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! I also wish her all the best at the Awards and I am really looking forward to seeing her work on the catwalk.
Images kindly provided by Chloe for use.