Don O’Neill the creative director behind the label THEIA is an Irish Designer from Ballyheigue in County Kerry and he is one designer who has successfully launched into international markets and has been recognized the world over. THEIA is a brand that I have watched for many years now and the inspiration behind the brand is one that I also fell in love with – to “bring out every woman’s inner goddess”and Don himself is such an inspiration for those who are looking to work in the fashion industry and so I was delighted when he agreed to be interviewed for Floralesque.
Don has worked in the fashion houses from London to Paris and now is showcasing his own work with THEIA. His much sought after bridal dresses are beautiful works of art and he has also dressed celebrities ranging from Carrie Underwoood to Taylor Swift to the powerhouse of Oprah Winfrey. He has also had an such interesting career prior to fashion design ranging from studying to be a pilot to training to be a chef! When he did decide to go down the fashion road he has worked with some amazing people from Ib Jorgensen (who I have spoken about before here) to Christian Lacroix to Carmen Marc Valvo and all of this experience shows through in his work.
Could you tell us a little about launching Theia and the inspiration behind the brand?
The company I was working for had just ended their Badgley Mischka License (Of which I was creative Director) and they asked me to create a new eveningwear brand.
It was an exciting opportunity to begin a new venture. The concept behind the brand was inspired by a white chiffon gown that when worn by my showroom model made her look like a Goddess. That inspired research in to various Goddesses… and hence I happened upon the name THEIA, the Greek name for Goddess, and also the Goddess of light. It was the perfect name for an eveningwear company. The idea of enhancing a woman’s ability to allow her inner light shine, through dresses that build confidence fascinated and inspired me.
Does your Irish Background have an influence your designs?
My fascination for the Irish landscape and the book of Kells has always influenced my work.. sometimes without me knowing it, until after a dress has been created, someone will point out to me it’s very distinct Irish origins.
I am aware that you studied in the Barbara Bourke College of Fashion Design, do you think it is important for those seeking a career in design to have a formal education before venturing into a career in fashion?
A formal education is essential coupled with good experience in the industry. It necessary to know the basics of pattern making, fabrications, design disciplines, sketching, fashion history, learning how to communicate your designs to overseas manufactures, become fluent in Photoshop and illustrator, as well as the basics of the workings of this Industry.
Are there any specific materials/fabrics and/or techniques that you enjoy designing with most?
I love working with embroideries… it’s like creating your own fabric from scratch, every swirl and line, how it will flow around the body, the colour’s, the shapes, the textures… the possibilities are limitless
Although I am sure that there have been numerous pinch yourself moments along your career, and that launching Theia in 2009 and your first runway show in Fall 2012 are certainly ones to note but what has been your proudest/defining moment to date?
Saying “I DO” to my Husband in front of Ballyheigue Castle overlooking the seaside village in Ireland where I grew up, in front of my entire family and dearest friends, was surreal. Surreal to think how the times have changed… surreal to have the people of Ballyheigue gather at the gates of the Castle to cheer us on and congratulate us, before we headed up to the ceremony. Whoever would have thought that moment possible, and yet there we were at home in Ireland enveloped in a tidal wave of love, acceptance, pure joy and happiness.
Your line is sold around the world and you have broken very successfully into the international markets which is just fantastic. Do you have any advice for those who are thinking of trying to do the same? Do you think it is possible to launch from Ireland and break into those markets?
To break in to those markets, you need 2 things;
1. A product that works for them. Understanding what they wear and designing in to that is very important.
2. Positioning yourself where they can find you, see the product and buy it … usually at group exhibition show…Paris or London during the Pret a Porter Shows, New York during Fashion Coterie, or the many other smaller shows that happen around the world that buyers travel to, to find product. They buyers are under one roof going from designer to designer to find merchandise and you need to be in their line of sight, with beautiful product that will get them to stop, take a look, and buy your collection.
The Resort 2017 Collection is just stunning and the inspiration of “Zinc Yellow,” by Franz Kline is beautiful. Can you please tell us more about the collection.
This collection is a step in a new direction, embracing a younger sexier direction for THEIA. Clothing is no longer about age appropriate dressing, age is no longer relevant. Its about fun, its about mixing it up.. fashion is changing … women dress differently, reflecting modern life styles, and the collection reflects these busy on the go women.
The model I choose to shoot this Resort 2017 collection on is much fuller and curvier than the models my fellow designers use. The stunning Charlie is a curvaceous Australian girl full of life, with a fun nonchalant carefree attitude and it showed in the shoot…
What can we expect in the future from Theia?
The line will continue to evolve, The bridal collection is growing, (Cool modern Irish Brides continue to flock to Folkster in Kilkenny to buy their THEIA wedding dresses )..The bridesmaids collection which just launched and is doing really well, and from here who knows… the world is full of limitless possibilities.
And finally – a very important Tea question? Barrys or Lyons?
In the O’Neill household I grew up drinking “Lyons” the quality tea .. and I still love a steaming hot cup of Lyons tea, not too strong with a good drop of milk.. and if there is a slice fresh homemade rhubarb pie, still warm from the oven to go with it ……. Well that’s a piece of heaven right there !!
A massive thank you to Don for taking the time out so soon after his wedding for doing this amazing interview, though I have no doubt that his strong work ethic is one of the reasons for his amazing success. I would certainly recommend looking at the THEIA website as the dresses are those of fairytales and are simply just beautiful. THEIA is also on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
I wish Don and Pascal all the best in the future and in their exciting life togeather xx
All images kindly provided by THEIA.
If you enjoyed this interview in the ‘Floralesque Meets’ Series, then you can click here to read more exciting interviews with designers, creators, artists, photographers, entrepreneurs and more – enjoy meeting the makers!