Monday, October 28, 2013

Interview with fashion designer Danielle Romeril

When I first saw Danielle's collection I was in awe. How did I not hear that name before? A quick google search revealed that she is indeed very new on the block but she's already got a committed following. Not that I'm surprised. With ABSOLUT ORIGINALITY exhibition launching this week (see details below), I had an opportunity to chat to Danielle about her designs for the exhibition and all other things fashion.
I hope you enjoy the interview below and remember - make a note of that name...

 I’ve seen one of the pieces you designed for the ABSOLUT ORIGINALITY launch, a stunning white dress. Could you tell me a little bit about the idea behind it?

The inspiration was taken from this year’s limited edition bottle design – ABSOLUT ORIGINALITY. ABSOLUT have managed to create a range of bottles, each one unique from the next. The bottle looks like a drop of blue ink has been poured into the glass at the blowing stage, allowing it to sweep around the glass in a beautifully organic and unexpected way! I took the translucency of the bottle and the blue of the ‘originality’ drop and, exclusively for the project, I created a plastic laced embellishment. Two layers of blue plastic are laced together to create a depth of colour and light, these pieces are laced together using an ancient samurai armour technique which was designed to allow solid things to bend and flex with the body. The fringing is then placed on the body in an organic and fluid way, attached to the dress with blue leather panelling.  The piece took maybe four days to hand lace so it is pretty special!

How many more pieces will you design for the launch and can you tell me a little bit more about them?

I am working on another outfit, this time a top and skirt with similar plastic fringing. If you thought the first one was a statement piece, you really need to see this! It will be on view at the exhibition and will be a part of the interactive element of the exhibition, where you get to use cutting edge technology to project imagery onto the outfit just by using your hand and finger movements. It’s pretty cool!

You worked for Alberta Ferratti for a while; do you think it shaped your own collections?

Of course! As a designer every place you work seeps into you and comes out in some form or another, I think I learned to understand the beauty of lightness and femininity while working with Ms. Ferretti.

You moved back to Dublin in times when most fashion designers/professionals are making the move to London. What made you do that?

Why not? Fashion professionals and talented designers have been moving away since forever, the industry is small here and opportunities are limited, that never really changed during the Celtic Tiger years, I moved away too and worked with a designer in London before starting my Masters. I came back to Dublin as it felt like an exciting place to work as a creative person again. It’s a small city and I love living here, people are very open to collaborative work and supporting each other. My business is quite focused on the international market but I have so far managed to do that from Dublin; however I am looking at leaving Dublin again as the support for promising fashion business is just not here. London looks likely again!

Is there a celebrity that you would like to dress?

I would be delighted if someone I really respected for their achievements wore some of my pieces, like the artist Marina Abramovic or architect Zaha Hadid. Saoirse Ronan wears clothes beautifully, and not only is she gorgeous, but also extremely talented. Angela Scanlon always looks amazing when she wears my pieces.

Who do you design for? Do you have any particular type of a woman in mind?

I guess I love the idea of being able to throw on one of my pieces with a pair of flats and go! They’re not the sort of clothes that you need to match your handbag to, they should feel relaxed and effortless. I love the idea of a younger Tilda Swinton crashing posh parties that she wasn’t invited to, just running around having a giggle with her mates.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

Oh, a tough question, I guess receiving my Masters from the Royal College of Art in London was a pretty big deal for me; the work that piece of paper represents is sort of overwhelming!

The fashion industry is very competitive and cut-throat. How do you manage as a young designer?

By keeping focused on what I believe in. I focus on what I am doing and don’t look around me too much; the race is with yourself not with anyone else. I am a strong believer in the beauty of craft and approach my design with a sort of subversive craft attitude. I create slow fashion, things that can’t be copied within the high street stores, things that are beautiful and labour intensive to make. I am always being told, “that piece is going to be a nightmare in production” but I don’t care, so what if the factory can’t do our hand laced fringing, let them do the rest and then we will do that, we will just work harder and that’s why it is worth buying from a young designer - the big boys won’t operate like that! The name on the label may be instantly recognisable but if the dress you just spent €1000 on was made in the same factory as a dress you could have bought in the next shop for €200, is that really value for money? Are you really getting a thousand euros worth of hand-crafted beauty?

Have you got a favorite designer? Who is it?

I couldn't name just one! I love Cristobal Balenciaga; he is a hero of mine. I also love what Proenza Schouler based in New York do.

You use a lot of leather in your collections. Some designers are moving away from that now, making a statement by using recycled fabrics, etc. What’s your view on that?

Each to their own! I use a lot of leather but there is an almost zero waste approach to my use of the product. All the leather that was used in our hand laced fringing from Autumn/Winter 2013 is used from off cuts, meaning there is less than 1% waste on a typical hide. It’s a beautiful material to work with. It’s tough and flexible, and you can do things with it that no manmade fibre on the planet could because it's special – it's skin. I do often think about the animal that lived in it, so I try to make really beautiful things from it.

Danielle Romeril and below her AW'13 collection

Danielle will be featuring her designs in ABSOLUT ORIGINALITY, a free multidisciplinary exhibition taking place in Mabos Arts Space, 8 Hanover Quay, Dublin. The exhibition is free and open to the public on Thursday, October 31st; 11am to 8pm, Friday, November 1stand Saturday, November 2nd, 11am to 6pm. The exhibition is to launch this year’s new limited edition bottle design, ABSOLUT ORIGINALITY, which features a streak of cobalt blue to reflect the original streak in all of us.  Visit for more information.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Irish knits

Most Irish people have a serious fear of Aran jumpers. Memories of childhood blurred by itchiness and discomfort put them off for many years.
There's a great story and tradition behind Irish knitwear though and I have absolutely fallen for them recently (you can learn more about it HERE). Since knitwear is huge this season and even Chanel is embracing the Scottish checks and knits, not too dissimilar to the Irish ones, I thought this is the best time to get some jumpers.
There are many different stitch patterns and the type of pattern usually dictates the style and the look of the jumper. Although many jumpers have varied stitching throughout (this is actually one of the details of the design of the Aran jumpers), cable stitch is my fave.
I think it's actually the most flattering one and in this woolly beige, it looks traditional but simple and it is easy to put together with many different things.

Most people think Irish jumpers can only be worn with jeans and look very casual but I think they can be easily dressed up or down, depending on how you style it.

To prove my point I put my jumper together with a textured skater skirt which looks a little bit like leather. Boots made of  suede and leather and a small bag complete the outfit. Not for a night out but surely a serious step up from jeans and hiking boots (which is what most seem to go for). It's a very comfy, warm and chic look that I am hoping to work a lot this autumn/winter.

 Skirt - New Look

It's in the details..

Rings - River Island
Boots - Zara
Bag - Aldo

For some lovely Celtic-style presents, check out Irish Christmas Gifts  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Interview with one of Ireland's top fashion designers - Natalie B Coleman

Natalie B Coleman launched her first collection in 2011 and has since grown from strength to strength. Every season Natalie amuses with her tongue in cheek titled collections but when it comes down to clothes, it’s a serious business. Fabulous, high end fabrics finished to perfection with interesting prints, great detail and flattering draping have become her staples. Launching your own brand is not an easy task though and Natalie recently started to work with Microsoft to make her working life that bit easier.
As a Microsoft ambassador, Natalie’s passion for style and design has been enriched through the apps and services she has discovered; such as having her favorite fashion sites pinned to her Start screen and the 'Fashion’ app which allows her to follow the feed of all her favorite bloggers.
I had an opportunity to chat to Natalie about everything from the AW’13 collection, through her favorite food to stories from video sets. I hope you enjoy discovering a bit more about Natalie as much as I did.   

Natalie B Coleman collections are inspired by women and their stories, who inspired your AW’13 collection?
I think it wasn’t a specific person, each collection is almost like a diary page so it’s kind of all the women who are around me, whatever books I am reading and music I am listening to. It’s always kind of the same type of person but maybe she’s growing up a little bit. Starting to grow up a bit more, I hope, like me. At the moment I’m working on my AW 14/15 and that’s going to be much more grown up again, much more sophisticated. It’s still going to have the sense of humor in it, the elements I hope to carry through each collection but I feel like the Natalie B Coleman girl is growing up.

How do you see her staying fun & flirty?
Women stay fun and flirty their whole lives, it’s just natural.

You launched your first collection in 2011, how did you find the move from working for brands to working for yourself? Do you still find that you get to be creative or do you get distracted by running a business?
I think I’ve learnt more in the last 3 years than I’ve learnt my whole previous life. It’s just been like being thrown in at a deep end. I didn’t have any business experience or any knowledge of how to run a business. All I ever worked at was design so it’s been a really big learning curve but I think I’ve been quite practical as well and not trying to do too much, not have unrealistic goals. I have put in a lot of hours but it’s been ok, it’s been an experience. It’s hard but I have a lot of secondary kind of employments; my production is in Portugal, I’ve got some really good interns that help me a lot and I have a lot of friends who work in photography, film and things which means that I can do some collaborations as well.

Apart from fashion, what do you like?
Food. I love food. I’m obsessed with food. I go to bed with cookery books. I love reading about food, I like eating food, so much more than the cooking, even though I like cooking but my husband cooks all the time so he’s kind of taken over the kitchen. We just eat a lot.  

Any favorite food spots in Monaghan or Dublin?
There’s a really cool bar just outside where I had a party the next day after the wedding, it’s like an old pub / restaurant which is really nice. It’s the River Bank, it’s in the country side [Monaghan] and I love going there. They serve really good, homemade pub food and there’s an open fireplace. We travel a lot with work. I love Asian food, really fresh tastes. I eat a lot of sushi and Italian. I eat everything and everywhere! In Dublin, I haven’t been here that much recently but I think I’ll be moving back here after Christmas so I’m sure I’ll be eating out a lot more. I really like the Winding Stair on the Quays and Saba is great for Asian food.  

The names of your collections, they’re very unusual. Where do you get the ideas from?
They mostly reflect what is going on with my life. The Sarah’s suitcase was when I was getting married so it was all very girlie, frivolous and frothy.

The most recent one is called ‘I belong to me’, is that some kind of statement after you got married?
Yeah, 3 months after I got married (laugh). My husband has a good sense of humour, he’s very easy going.
I had a smashing party which I always wanted to do. Myself and a lot of friends got together and we had a lot of old delph from parties and different functions that were really cheap and cracked, just not really good for anything. So we had some drinks & music and we just smashed it all up. It was great, I took a lot of pictures, it was like a big release. I think I want to do another one again, a bigger one. So the idea came from this smashing party. I was looking at things breaking apart and china when it’s broken. I was looking at a lot Cubist artists as well and I started developing the prints from there, the shapes and the mood of them. It’s kind of a bit punky in its attitude.  

(See video of the new collection HERE)

When it comes to your own wardrobe, are most of your clothes your own designs or do you ever shop on the high street?
No, I don’t shop, I don’t have time to shop! I’m going to New York next week so I’m definitely going to pick up something. Each place I go to I like to get a teacup and a saucer, I collect tea sets. I spend a lot of time on shoes and bags but recently I got more into jewellery.

Would you consider going into jewellery design?
Maybe in the future it would be nice to do a collaboration with somebody who was more gifted in that area, more of a crafts person  But yes, I would like to learn a lot more about jewellery. I designed my own engagement ring and it’s beautiful, well I love it.
I have a lot of vintage pieces, I love second hand stores but mostly I wear my own clothes. 

Natalie's engagement ring

What social media have proven best for engaging with customers and promoting business?
Twitter, it’s really good. I’ve gotten a few different magazine pieces through twitter and that time that Marina and the Diamonds contacted me, through twitter. I was wondering because I got all these new followers and then I looked back and saw a tweet from her which I wouldn’t have noticed. One of my pieces was used on a video clip for Rick Ross. It was from Spring Summer 12, the song was a number 1 in US charts, it’s called Amsterdam, the female singer in the song is Antonique Smith and she’s wearing one of my pieces in it. I didn’t know anything about it, their stylist picked it out, it’s only that somebody contacted me on Twitter. That’s people looking at the piece in a video in America, googling it, finding my name and mentioning it. It’s really interesting, it just makes the world so small. Which is great, except you can’t hide anymore. I spent my life trying to hide, not a very good career to go into for somebody who likes to be on their own a lot. I spend a lot of time on my own in studio so it’s a balance.

Is there a designer that you admire most?
There’s a lot of designers that I love. Historically I always loved Balenciaga, I like Vionnet because she was amazing, even for women who worked for her she brought in proper pension schemes for them, she was really female–orientated and a very strong kind of a woman. For a lot of female designers it was very difficult because it was more of a men’s world and they were very visionary so I admire all of the female designers during those periods, Chanel as well.
I like Celine a lot at the moment, I like the clean lines and simplicity, it’s very clever, I love Celine, I think it’s my favorite.  I like Marc Jacobs as well, I think I would really like to go out for a night with Marc Jacobs if he wasn’t in his pious state. Back in his partying days, I think that would be fun. He’s got a really good humor.
There’s a lot of designers that I like, I love Danielle Romeril and what she’s doing at the moment, I think it’s great, she’s great. There’s a lot of great Irish designers, I always loved Una [Burke], she’s a good friend of mine and I love her pieces.

What made you move back to Monaghan? I know you lived in London for a while.
I lived in London when I was doing my MA at Central St. Martins, then I moved back to New York, back to the people I worked for before for a while. Then I came back to Dublin and I didn’t know what I was doing, it was before I set up the label and I was a little bit lost and I owed a lot of money from my Masters. I just moved back to the countryside, to my dad’s to try and figure out what to do. I love going home, it’s so peaceful, I’m a bit of a country girl so it was nice. Then I converted one of the garages into a studio and just started working there. I’m over and back between Bristol and Monaghan now, on ‘glamorous’ Ryanair flights (laugh). I think I may be moving back to Dublin in January, hopefully I’ll have a place in a centre of town which should be good.  

How did you manage to start your business in Monaghan?
It was pure stubbornness I think because it was so difficult. I wasn’t even driving at the time, I was in the middle of nowhere, with no internet, no home phone line. I got those eventually but it was a year into it before I did. No internet, no phone line, really bad coverage, I’d be out in a ditch going ‘Can you hear me?! Now?!’. I had to go in sometimes into town and sit outside the local hotel to pick up their internet. It was crazy, in some ways it was really good because I was so cut off from everything, I just worked, I was really obsessive, I was just working all the time and I was really involved in what I was doing. It was just before everything started taking off, when I was doing my first trade shows, just before I had to focus on all of the production and make all these different changes, decisions and moves. It was a really nice time for me, I was just doing what I loved without any big stresses.

How do you manage now, between Monaghan, Bristol and all the travelling?
I work with these [pointing at Surface RT and Nokia Lumia]. Have you seen it yet? [the tablet]. It’s really cool. When you’re travelling, it’s so useful, it has a USB port so when you’re away and you’re going to trade shows and you take pictures you want to upload, you can do that, it’s so handy. You can plug in your phone, camera, hard drive, printer if you need something done on the go, it’s great.  There’s this really great thing called OneNote; when I’m on the phone and if I’m at Premier Vision, you’re walking along and it’s just so hectic. I’d go to OneNote and I’d just speak to it for example: ‘leather at booth 103’. When you go home, you go to your OneNote on the tablet and it’d be typed up there so you can put it in your diary. They’re synchronised together (the phone and the tablet) so it just makes life a lot easier. It has a great camera on it as well.

As we carried on, I learned that the model on the set for ‘Sarah’s Suitcase’ video never drove a car before. ‘Come on you’ll be grand’ Natalie said. Not surprisingly, it was better than that. I look forward to Natalie’s next move: be it new collection, move to Dublin, new story or pretty much anything; with her charm, witty sense of humor and hard work, she will surely make it work.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


With Christmas approaching quicker than I expected, I have been keeping an eye out for dresses that (come festive season) will inevitably be in demand.

Little Black Dress is obviously a staple and I have more than 1 in my wardrobe already but there are so many options available that I decided to get one with a bit more sparkle to compliment my other 2 very simple options.

This Dorothy Perkins dress ticks all the boxes for me:

  • Short but not too skimpy. You can show a little leg but still look classy
  • Sparkly but not over the top. The sequins add interest without overwhelming and paired with a black blazer, it's actually quite simple. Still, on its' own and with right accessories, it's a show stopper. 
  • Underlined. Never underestimate such details, this dress feels comfortable and it looks right when you move, sit, etc. It won't be visible to everyone what underwear you're wearing and you won't have to worry about whether you can have the dessert...
  • The design of the sequins is very clever, it widens the hips but the dress is black around the (usually tricky) waist area. A big tick! 

Blazer - Armani (thrifted)

 It's in the details..

Clutch - H&M
Heels - Penneys (Primark)

Monday, October 21, 2013

My closet

Every few months I put a date in the diary to de-clutter my wardrobe. After that, an application with the Dublin Flea Market is filed and if I'm lucky, I get to trade for a day trying to shift the stuff I don't wear enough anymore.
The most common question I'm asked when selling my wares? I wish it was something like: are you a fashion writer? where do you get such amazing clothes?
The real question is: how big is your wardrobe?
Based on the amount of stuff I'm getting rid of, shoppers often wonder where and how do I store the stuff I'm actually keeping.
I never thought it's a lot but on the other hand, I've put in quite a lot of work into my wardrobe space so I decided to share it with you. The photos are a little outdated (it's ever-evolving) but it gives you an idea.

It's not fancy, the most important thing: it's practical. If you're considering a walk-in-wardrobe, bear in mind:

  • Doors not allowed. The whole idea is that you can see your stuff. Once it's at the back / behind a door you don't see /wear it.
  • The above does not apply to underwear. This is your space but keep your undies in drawers. Best for everyone.
  • You can break it up as suits but what I found works is:
    • Workwear tops section: from short sleeve, through long sleeve to blazers
    • Casual tops section: from short sleeve, through long sleeve to jumpers/cardigans
    • Workwear bottoms section
    • Dresses & skirts section
    • Outerwear section
    • Get an organiser for scarves and hang it on the door
    • Keep your bags lined up so you can see them
    • Hang up your necklaces - keeps them in shape and visible

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fashion zoo

I personally consider animal print to be a classic and for autumn/winter - a staple. If I asked my boy about his view on animal prints he would surely be full of witty comments on where they belong (from Dublin zoo to Bet Lynch).

I like the zoo though so this time I created a little fashion zoo of my own.

These leggings are not only comfy and slimming (note: snake print is very flattering when used on the lower body), they're also rather fab! I love the fact that they're not so obvious (blue snakes anyone?). The pink French Connection disco bag from Surfdome has the coolest distorted leopard print and makes this very casual outfit a little bit more fun.  

Would you mix animal prints yourself? How far would you go?


Top - Esprit

It's in the details..

Bag - Surfdome (more FCUK bags HERE)
Ring - Dublin flea market
Boots - Carvela Kurt Geiger


Sunday, October 13, 2013


As a committed bargain-hunter I love to share a good deal with others. I have recently discovered Shoeaholics and I was skeptical at first. This site offered my recently bought KG boots at a fraction of a price. I decided that the easiest way to find out what they do is to order a pair of shoes.

These KG Kurt Geiger beauties arrived swiftly, in original box and perfect condition. Most of the shoes on the site are marked as 'ex-display' but mine were in mint condition.

At under €30 (including postage) with a full price tag of £150, I am seriously impressed!

I just found out that there's a 25% discount card for Shoeaholics with Look magazine this week so if you're shoe-shopping make sure to pick it up.

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