There are some designers whose work always impresses me and Niamh O’Neill is one of those designers. I simply adore her work. She creates the most elegant timeless pieces that have a stunning feminine silhouette. And I am delighted to be featuring her on Floralesque today.
She started her career back in 2008 when she graduated from the National College of Art and Design with First Class Honours in Fashion Design. From there her career has only gone from one success to another.
Niamh has worked with some of the top fashion designers in the world such as Diane Von Furstenberg and John Galliano. From there she started her own clothing line and created the brand as it stands today. One that is looked upon with great love by so many of us. This year she also launched her own E-Boutique which you can shop here.
Have you always had an interest in fashion and fashion design?
Yes, for as long as I remember, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I was designing dresses from a very young age and have never really stopped!
Do you remember when you decided to make the decision to take it seriously as a career?
It was easy for me to choose fashion design as a career because I was lucky in that I always knew I wanted to pursue it. Choosing to go to NCAD to do a design degree really cemented that decision and made it a reality.
My understanding is that you studied at NCAD. Do you think that it is important for designers to undertake some form of formal training?
I think formal training is an ideal starting point for a career in fashion. It gives you an understanding of the design process and how to realise your creative ideas in actual garments. However it is only when you begin to work in the industry that the real learning process begins. There is so much more to learn after formal training and I believe the only way to learn some things in this industry is by doing them.
You have worked for some amazing designers such as DVF and John Galliano. These must have been such fantastic experiences. What did you take away from working with them?
It was amazing creative experience working in these design houses. I had the benefit of working within a large team where everybody has a very particular job to do. It’s very different when you have your own brand as you have so many jobs to do, from the creative side of the brand to the business side. My experience always reminds me to push the creative process as it can be very easy to be consumed by the business side!
Your pieces are so exquisite and feminine – where do you find your inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from style icons in history, like Diana Vreeland and Marlene Dietrich. The late 1940s and 1950s always inspire me as I adore the ladylike feeling of the era.
I don’t like to reproduce 1950s fashion but I love to have a hint of that elegant spirit in my work. Do you have a favourite fabric to work with?
I adore the crispiness of silk organza and the way it holds it’s structure. Organza is wonderful to make stand-out silhouettes.
I also love Italian double wool crepe as it falls beautifully in full styles and gives a garment a very luxurious weight.
Starting your own label must have been quite daunting in the beginning. What was the greatest challenge that you faced when you decided to go for it?
It was very exciting to start, however when I look back I realise just how much I didn’t know! You can only learn certain things by doing them and having your own business is one of those things. The greatest challenge was being an unknown designer. You have to build respect and trust within the industry and it is ever evolving.
Although I am sure difficult to choose – what has been your proudest moment to date?
The fist time I saw a lady wearing Niamh O’Neill was a huge break through moment for me personally. It was the first time I had seen someone who wasn’t a friend or family wearing the brand and it was a very proud moment as Niamh O’Neill is all about our customer and making them feel wonderful.
Do you have any designers that you look up to for your own style?
I look up to many designers and follow their work as it is always interesting to see what your favourite designers do next. However I think it’s so important to keep your own vision as a designer and not be influenced by another.
Do you have any tips that you would give to those interested in working in fashion design (something that they may not tell you)?
You need to be 100% passionate about fashion and design. It is a very demanding industry and can take up A LOT of your time. Sometimes I think that if you are not completely in love with fashion and design, it would be an extremely difficult career choice.
Do you think that there is enough support for upcoming Irish Designers?
I think there is support and designers are supportive of each other. Upcoming Irish designers would really benefit from dedicated support specifically for fashion design, to include business training, financial support and help with manufacturing.
Can you please tell us a little about the stunning AW16 collection? I am loving the feeling of elegance in the collection!
I drew on a feeling of the late 1940s and the work of Diana Vreeland for the AW16 collection. Old world elegance is updated to create a clean and contemporary sophistication.
Luxurious fabrics are key to the Niamh O’Neill aesthetic. Beautiful silk organza jacquards are used to create coats, skirts and dresses, in stand-out silhouettes.
What does the future hold for the Niamh O’Neill brand?
This season we have launched our e-boutique online, which has been a big step for the business. We also launched the first piece of our luxury cashmere knitwear collection. We are now bringing Niamh O’Neill to the export market an extending our customer reach to the UK and beyond!
A massive thank you to Niamh for doing the interview – she is one of my favourite Irish Designers and I love the elegance and feminine appeal of her pieces. I would highly recommend that you check out her beautiful website. And she is also on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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!
All images kindly provided with use by Niamh.