Interview with fashion designer Sarah O'Neill

She has styled the likes of Daniella Moyles, Suzanne Jackson, Sarah Morrissey and Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, and is fast becoming one of Ireland's hottest designers.

We here at RTÉ Fashion love to see up-and-coming Irish designers doing well for themselves and flying the flag. Laura Delaney recently had the opportunity to catch up with Galway-based designer, Sarah O'Neill,  to talk about her fabulous collection, Harlow & Harvey.  Sarah's pieces are exclusively stocked in http://www.frocknfabulous.ie/ based in Dundrum, with an exclusive range of full length fringe dresses.

Laura Delaney: How did your fashion adventure begin?
Sarah O'Neill: I had finished school and gone travelling. When I came back I felt like I was at a loss. I was chatting to my sister and she had heard of a fashion design course in Galway. She suggested that I do it. It had always been something that I had done, but never really considered it as a viable career option. I did that, and got on really well with it, and went on to do a four year honours fashion degree in Limerick School of Art and Design.

Check out our Harvey & Harlow gallery here

How did you manage to launch your own fashion line?
When I was coming out of college, I had the great fortune to have a friend that was setting up a shop. She was a big supporter of my work, so I was able to take my degree and collection and make a diffusion collection and put it in her shop. From there, I got other stocklists including one in London called Rag & Magpie. I was still able to make custom pieces at the same time, which was great!

Where did the name Harlow & Harvey come from?
It was a little bit convoluted. I always wanted a double barrelled name. If you’re going into London, where I buy most of my fabrics (and Paris), there is a stop along the way called Harlow. The name just kind of stuck with me. I thought it was so beautiful. I went with Harvey because it rhymed.

What makes your collection stand out from the crowd?
A lot of my collections are based around the body, but also architecture. There are strong lines and silhouettes. I also incorporate a lot of fringing into my work. It just moves so beautifully. My initial collection was called Skin & Bone and it was about the sense of fragility that exists in architecture.
 

What is your favourite piece from your collection?
I have a few. I created a dress for Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin for the VIP Awards last year. It’s a beautiful cobalt blue evening gown with my fringing in around the shoulder. At the moment I’m working on some wedding dress designs. It’s exciting to do wedding dresses because they’re so precious. I love being set a challenge.

Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin wearing Harvey & Harlow

Do you have a custom design service?
Absolutely! The way I’ve structured the business is mostly on requests. People always come to me asking for bespoke pieces. The client can change fabrics, cut, detailing or make the clothing shorter and longer etc. The customer has a sense of control over the garments they are getting. This is how the added value comes in.

Tell us a bit about your colour scheme.
I do a lot of bright colours at the moment, which is surprising because I used to go for shades of grey, white and taupe. I really try to use a lot more colour. I love putting lots of purples and reds together in the same dress. It’s exciting and fun and one of those things were if you want to walk into a room and always feels amazing you will wear red. I wanted to include those kinds of feelings in my pieces so that people good feel their best.

Is it difficult for Irish designers to thrive in the fashion world?
It’s difficult with fashion because it's art, but it’s also business. It falls in a funny place with regards to funding and arts councils. You can find yourself between a rock and a hard place. But we do get a lot of support. Ireland is small enough that you can make contacts with people. I’ve been to people to ask them advice and for some of their knowledge. Everyone has always been happy to help.

What is the staple piece that all women should have in their wardrobe?
Great jackets! You can’t go wrong with a classically tailored jacket. You wear them so often and it always completes a look.

If you could dress any celebrity who would it be?
That’s a hard one! I reckon it would be Chloë Sevigny. She’s so beautiful. My muse would always be someone off-kilter - someone a little bit rocky and edgy, but not a classic beauty.

For more information on Harlow & Harvey check out http://www.harlowandharvey.com/

Daniella Moyles looking red hot in a Harlow & Harvey creation
Daniella Moyles and Sarah Morrissey rocking some designs by Sarah O'Neill