There are some designers whose careers you can see gathering pace right in front of you, and Amie Egan is certainly one of them. She started her career back in 2013, and since then has interned with some amazing designers such as Leutton Postle, and worked with brands such as Joanne Hynes and Liadain Aiken Knitwear. And just this month she was a finalist in the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards 2018!
Amie is a designer whose work is eye-catching and the patterns on her pieces are just beautiful. I discovered her work back in 2014 when she won the Persil Irish Fashion Awards that year, and have been following her since then. So we are delighted to be featuring her on Floralesque today.
Have you always had an interest in fashion and design?
I believe I have always had an interest, definitely in the visual arts and design anyway. Growing up, ‘playtime’ was always about arts and crafts – painting and ‘making’ with my sisters. There’s a lot of creativity in my family and an appreciation for design. When I was young we spent summers in Kerry watching and helping my grandmother make hats and patchwork quilts. However, my interest in fashion was possibly a more subconscious growth.
I knew I wanted to work in design, but not specifically fashion until I started college. Creating something with a function appeals to me. Making clothes offered this sort of utility as well as an outlet for storytelling. I love making something that has such a close connection with the human body. We all wear clothes and these clothes can enhance our human experience.
Fashion is so vibrant and exciting; it’s about change; adapting to or responding to environmental, political, cultural and social change. It is a space that allows me to explore my thoughts and inspirations, to tell a new story or to tackle an idea.
Through this discipline, I realised I could use all my outside interests and findings to feed my work. I think I will always be interested in fashion; for me, it will always have a connection with the environment, people, lifestyle, film, and music; these all drive my design process, the possibilities are endless.
Can you please tell us a little about your career journey to date – you have worked with some amazing brands!
I prepared a portfolio during a yearlong PLC course in Moate Busines College before continuing on to study Fashion Design in NCAD, I graduated in 2014. That same year I won the Persil Award Bursary in partnership with Dunnes Stores. This was fantastic. Not only did I win money but my designs were produced and sold in Dunnes Stores throughout Ireland.
My first internship was in London with an amazing knitwear brand called Leutton Postle run by Sam Leutton and Jenny Postle. This was really inspiring to see these two young designers being really fearless and driven. Their work was unlike anything I’d seen before. Creating new textiles is important to me so I really learned a lot and loved being in this environment. The atmosphere was fun and because the studio was small I was exposed to the various aspects of running a brand. Fashion is so relevant in London, it’s a huge industry. It really motivates you to work hard.
I worked in New York with a brand called Cienne NY. Cienne NY is a ready-to-wear brand for women who value pieces that are both interesting and necessary. Designed and made in New York City with an emphasis on craftsmanship and responsible production. Textiles in natural fibres are sourced from and developed in collaboration with artisans around the world. Working with Nicole gave me an insight into the importance of building a sustainable and ethical business. Fashion has a responsibility to care for the workers and protect the environment.
I’ve also spent some time working at Liadain Aiken Knitwear in Dublin. Liadain is a dear friend and all-around amazing woman. Her brand is really special with a great ethos; something I think is very important but often lacking in this industry. Her approach is meticulous and her pieces full of personality. Its slow fashion, made to order, made to last. Knitwear often features in my collections so to learn to be disciplined and attentive while knitting was really beneficial.
At the moment I’m working on small collections and making some bespoke pieces to present at shows and competitions. I want to take this time at the beginning of my career to learn a lot and really develop my aesthetic and ethos. I have to be able to rationalize my work to myself.
Where do you find your inspiration from?
My focus is on outerwear; designs rooted in functional and traditional garments, utility-wear and sportswear. I am interested in the human relationship with the land and I assign roles to the wearer such as Traveller, Hunter, Gatherer, Gardener, etc. As I’m designing in Ireland I’m focusing on rainwear this season, so I’m developing some wax cotton and coated textiles inspired by Arctic dress and traditional Irish country-wear.
Browsing for fabrics is a very inspiring time. I just go by instinct, I know what I like and the quality I’m looking for. There are some colours I know I’ll never use, it’s all about finding what feels right for my aesthetic, it’s quite personal. I’m also really excited by materials that are on the edge of bad taste, I think when something is slightly uncomfortable to the eye at first, you can elevate it and put it in a luxury context, by the time the season comes round it will look right to the eye, it will be modern.
Textiles, Music, film, environment, sports, and people, these are really my main sources for inspirations. As a designer your eyes are always working, you have to be open to inspiration wherever it presents itself.
Is there a particular textile that you enjoy working with?
Pu coated outerwear is my go to. I love coated cotton and technical outerwear fabrics. These fabrics are modern, smooth, flat and the perfect weight for my designs.
There are some fabrics I tend to use again and again. I love natural fibres like linen and dupion silk, these are timeless.
I also develop fabrics through painting, printing, knitting and other experimental surface application. This part of the process is really fun and free. I believe creating your own textile is an important part of designing a truly original garment. I am excited by elements that are bold and embody a raw energy.
Has your personal relationship with fashion changed now that you work in the industry?
Working in fashion definitely has changed my relationship with clothes, and how I shop and care for clothes. I choose better and keep and use everything I buy. My eye is more discerning. I’m attracted to garments that require skill to make or garments with really special fabric.
I’m very aware that when a garment is selling for a very low price something or someone along the chain has to pay for it. The garment workers, the majority being female, are the ones who miss out on a good deal.
I learnt how damaging this industry actually is! How damaging the high street is! How damaging it is to only wear a garment once and then throw it out because it was cheap and you can easily get another new thing. Everybody wants low prices, but we’ve been deceived, clothes aren’t cheap to make.
Watching films like ‘The True Cost’ really opened my eyes. I think anyone who buys clothes from any store should watch this film. There is so much we all need to learn, and we all have a responsibility to change the system.
I actually wasn’t even sure I wanted to continue working in this industry. But when I wasn’t designing or making I felt unfulfilled. I realise now I just need to be responsible and find a balance.
Winning the Persil Competition must have been amazing, can you please tell us a bit more about the collection?
This mini collection was designed especially for the brief set by Persil in association with Dunnes Stores. The brief was titled ‘A day at the Park’. Designers were required to design a spring/summer outfit for both a mother and child suitable for a day spent at the park. Garments needed to be wearable, practical, comfortable and washable.
As I was designing for the Irish market, I felt rainwear was appropriate. The ‘mother’s’ coat was made with waterproof material and featured a hood and large pockets. My project incorporated knitted sports stripe trims which were particularly prominent in 70’s sportswear, the sweatband, the tube sock, and vintage wool cycling jersey. I’m interested in branding so I developed a motif based on a little sketch of my sister skateboarding! It was important to have an element of fun!
Being noted in the ‘Ones to Watch’ category is so exciting, well done – are you looking forward to the night?
It is exciting! I feel lucky! To be invited to present on this platform, and to connect with people in the industry is very beneficial right now. I envisage the award night itself to be exhilarating, these kinds of occasions always motivate me. I’m only at the beginning of my career; I have so much I want to achieve. Support like the awards allows designers to progress.
I have recently met some of the other finalists; they’re all so lovely and ambitious. I’m looking forward to being in their company again and making a toast to our future endeavours!
Being in the design world now I believe means having a strong digital presence, do you enjoy this aspect of the career or is it challenging?
Being in a creative field these days’ demands a lot. Designers and artists are expected to have a strong digital presence. If you don’t have photographic evidence of the work it’s difficult to promote it. It means I need professional photographs for everything I make and this is very costly.
I do enjoy it and believe it is a great platform to share your work and vision! However, it is challenging. Every day we’re bombarded with images so it can be difficult to stand out. I could spend the entire day on Instagram; this can distract from getting the real work done.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking of starting a career in design? (something you wish someone had told you!)
Even though I myself am only starting my career in design, I do actually have a list on my wall with some advice I have to keep reminding myself. These may not be relevant to others though!
Just Start! Everything you do you learn from so don’t wait for the ‘right’ time to start! Things fall into place very quickly once you start!
Stay true to yourself and your inspirations! People are very good at seeing what is and isn’t genuine! Don’t be influenced/ intimidated by what everyone else is doing! Your work and your voice are just as relevant as the next persons.
(I tend to get bogged down on little details and not look at the bigger picture; this can be infuriating and is just a waste of time and energy)so I say, Be decisive! Learn to let go! Don’t be precious about all your ideas! Don’t get too personally attached! – If something is problematic or doesn’t feel right, park it and move on. Not every idea is good enough. Besides, you can always return to an idea at a later date, so keep an ongoing notebook.
Get out of your head! Don’t work things out in your head, don’t overthink – problem solve by making! You have to be able to communicate your idea and product to others, so make sure the physical evidence represents your idea and intention, people don’t mind readers!
Knowing how something is made and used is crucial to design, so be curious! Communicate with people in all design fields; this opens the way for new possibilities. Don’t accept things the way they are, maybe there is a better solution! You can’t do everything so don’t be afraid to ask for help! Having said that only work with people you trust, value and protect your work!
Don’t beat yourself up! If something doesn’t work, try again. Don’t give up!
Where do you see your brand in the next few years?
If I’m going, to be honest, I find this venture scary and risky but that’s also exciting. I want to make the work I want to make, to be as creative as possible and not get intimidated by the demands of the commercial market. I hope to work through some ideas and learn as much as I can. I see my brand focusing on outerwear and accessories such as bags and hats. My aim is to launch an online store, find new stockists, to reduce waste throughout the design process, and to collaborate with talented people in textiles, photography and film.
I think what will make my work different from the next designer is how I combine my inspirations and research. Interesting textiles and sustainable systems is the way to go. Somewhere along the line, I would like to do an MA in a European college, but I feel it’s important to be financially and emotionally ready for that challenge.
A massive thank you to Amie for doing the interview, I loved learning more about her relationship with fashion and inspirations. She is one designer that really is to watch – I have no doubt that she is going to be a big name in fashion. You can check out more of her work on her website, and she is also on Facebook and Instagram!
All images kindly provided for use.
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!