Georgina Heffernan: What did you want to become when you were a child?
Catherine Condell: When I was in school I always wanted to be a window dresser, and that's exactly where I started, but I also had a passion for fashion magazines and I used to gaze in wonder at the editorials thinking: "Imagine someone gets to put all of this together as a job - AND gets paid for it!" My Dad also used treat me occasionally to Vogue magazine, which at the time was amazing, because I used to think it was so expensive! I still have tear sheets from some of the original 70's issues and they happen to be the work of my utter heroine Grace Coddington.
How did you originally break into fashion styling?
When I joined the Brown Thomas display team in '83, I was delighted to act as a 'runner' for the person who used to put the shows together. Then, she left the business rather suddenly and I found myself thrown in the deep end of putting together shows and shoots. The word ‘Stylist’ hadn't even been heard of at that stage - I was a ‘Fashion Coordinator’! I used to work very closely with my display boss Bill Simpson and we produced the shows together. After a few years he became Creative Director and I began to take on all of the production and styling work. It was quite a unique position, but it was brilliant and it enabled me to take everything from scratch, which I still do to this day. In 1999, I left to go freelance, which I have been doing ever since.
Many girls think that being a fashion stylist is a 'dream job' where you are basically paid to shop.What’s the reality behind the gloss and glamour?
The reality is gritty hard work! Yes, you do get to work with beautiful clothes and accessories but there is huge amount of organisation and preparation involved in delivering fashion spreads and fashion shows - plus the work that has to be done afterwards! The glamour is the finished product, whether it's a picture or a runway show.
How has the fashion industry in Ireland changed since you started out?
On a very serious level, the current recession has made it harder for everyone involved in the fashion industry. Designers, manufacturers, retailers, magazines and all the creative people involved in fashion shows or shoots are firefighting the chronic situation. It's rather hard to survive. On a less serious note, the terrifying epidemic of "celebrity" driven fashion tips being hurled at us by ‘experts’. We are bombarded with people telling us what the trends are, what to wear, how to wear it, dress it up, dress it down, suits all shapes, great for weddings...Too much talk!
What are your favorite trends for autumn/ winter 2011?
My favorite trends is the 1940's seen at Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Donna Karan, and Marni & Marc Jacobs and Masculine seen at Stella Mc Cartney, Michael Kors, Chanel & Dolce & Gabbana
What do you find to be the most common mistakes women make with their clothing? What's the worst fashion mistake a woman can make?
Trying too hard to be fashionable!
What’s been the highlight of your career to date -and who are your favorite celebrities to work with?
There have been plenty of wonderful moments and I've been lucky to work with many fabulous people. But I guess the ultimate highlight has to be the Brown Thomas Supermodel Shows at the Point Depot in 1996, 2000 & 2003 - those shows were my babies! Huge charity shows for Ali Hewson's Children of Chernobyl and Caroline Desmond's ISPCC. They went out live on TV, which was rather daunting but I got to work with amazing people: Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Yasmin Le Bon, Eva Herzigova, Helena Christensen, Karen Mulder, Erin O’Connor, Alek Wek , Heidi Klum and Jasmine Guinness. We had brilliant people presenting and modeling: Dawn French, Lisa Stansfield, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Chris Evans, Simon Le Bon, and Gavin Friday, the list goes on! In photography my absolute favorite is Yasmin Le Bon, we have worked together quite a few times and I can honestly report. She’s as lovely as she looks.
If you could spend a day with a fashion icon, living or dead, who would it be?
Living - Grace Coddington. Dead - Diana Vreeland and Frida Kahlo.
Do you have a motto or any life lesson to share with our readers?
As my dear old Dad used to say: "Be yourself and you'll feel at home anywhere". Works for me!