‘No matter what job I do, I am always nervous’ – Stylist and Creative Director Niamh McKeever
08th Jun 2018
Niamh McKeever is a stylist and creative director who has worked with designers such as Hervé Leger and Vivenne Tam and recently has even worked with Vogue Italia, styling a look featuring pieces from Dublin boutique Om Diva. You may also recognise Niamh McKeever from her Instagram handle @your_lawless
As you’d expect, Niamh’s own style is impeccable but it’s her high ambition and impressive CV that stands her out from the crowd. In a Career in Focus, we talk about big breaks, fashion icons and advice to creative newbies.
What tool, object or ritual could you not live without in your workday?
No matter what job I do, I am always nervous. I suppose it’s a good thing. I am very passionate about my job and want to make it into a lasting career. No matter how experienced you are or the number of years you have dedicated, we are all replaceable in this business. You need to remind yourself of that; not to be negative but to push yourself further. Before any big job and if I get the opportunity, I go for a hike in Carlingford with my dad. It’s my favourite thing to do and as corny as it is, my dad’s weird sense of humour always calms me down. He’s my best friend.
What is your go-to work uniform?
When I am working on TV sets I wear very simple clothes, no makeup and usually all black. The hours can be long and I like to be comfortable and practical. For fashion shoots, I don’t know if it’s because I am a Gemini (double personality) but I love to explore a more colourful wardrobe. It’s funny because when I am on a movie set I am in all black and if I am on an editorial shoot I look like a rainbow. Fashion is fun; it’s only in the last three years that I have truly figured out my style. There is nothing better than finally being happy in your own skin. I would love for every lady to feel that way. I just wish I started having this attitude sooner and not in my mid-20s.
What is your favourite finishing touch to an outfit?
It has to be brooches. I really don’t understand why they are not more popular. They really complete an outfit and are effortless. My favourite place has to be Jenny Vander Vintage; they have so many, it is complete heaven for me. Another thing that I have started to collect recently is buttons. I do this regularly with my winter coats. For some reason, the high street can be boring with their button choices from time to time. I just detach them and reinvent the piece of clothing to fit my style and personality.
What has been the best piece of advice you ever received?
I started out as a production assistant in New York, when I worked on a show called ‘The Knick’. I met a lot of wonderful people and made incredible friendships. One of the cameramen was very kind to all the PAs and was very encouraging to us all. I expressed my love for costumes and how it was a goal of mine to get into the department. A few days later, I was doing lunch orders and he came over and said: “Niamh, you are what you do. You don’t want to be in production so stop doing it”, and took me straight over to the costume designer Ellen Mirojnick. To be honest, this experience still has me lost for words. Ellen told Pat to give me her number and to schedule a meeting. A week later, I was sitting in her office and for twenty minutes, she answered every question I had and more. She took me around every square inch of the costume/wardrobe department, which was complete magic. I know as a woman, your wedding day is supposed to be the best day of your life but this was mine. What I loved most was how humble and kind Ellen was. She has had enormous success and recently costume designed The Greatest Showman and here she was encouraging me. It is a moment I will always treasure and be grateful for. Pat’s saying has stayed in my head ever since: “you are what you do.”
Who is your fashion icon?
For daytime wear, I love Audrey Hepburn and Bridget Bardot style. For nights out, it has to be Cher and if I am ever expecting, I hope my wardrobe is just as fabulous as Blake Lively and Chrissy Teigen. I love how Blake and Chrissy have finally shown us how to be sexy while pregnant; it makes you wish you were pregnant too! My personal favourite was when Chrissy wore a red lace slip with a blazer while modelling a growing bump. It was perfection.
What is your most treasured fashion item?
Is it sad to say my entire wardrobe? I work hard for my clothes. I am not a big party girl and if I am going to treat myself, it’s with a new addition to the wardrobe. Working for myself meant I had to become more sensible but in a way, it’s a good thing because when I buy something, it’s not impulse buying. I have saved towards something I love.
What resources do you recommend to someone starting out in a creative business?
Take any job, as long as it’s surrounding the role you wish to take. I started out as a production assistant and although it’s not an area I wished to pursue, I learned so much. I learned to juggle many roles, be a problem solver and feel it has helped me immensely by starting out on my own. Take every opportunity that comes your way. Do not make excuses because it’s your friend’s birthday or you booked a holiday. If you think these are good reasons to miss out on a job, then you shouldn’t be in this business. Talent can only get you so far; the ones that get to the top have been continuously passionate and work hard. Networking is very important; every job I have had has lead into another.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career and how have you overcome it?
I am still only at the very beginning and have no doubt that I will have many more challenges. Not to put anyone off, but this industry does attract bullying personalities and big egos. The #MeToo campaign has been great but I sometimes feel we are solving one problem and then creating another. I don’t think wearing black solves the issue of abuse; sticking up for women and men when they are clearly in a stressful situation is a positive action, but not how you dress. I also believe that women can be bullies and use their status against others. And men can also be victims.
I have, on several occasions, come across characters that have bullied me or threatened to discredit my name, for no reason other than I didn’t do what they had asked. I am very proud to say I can stand up to people like this. It’s not an easy thing to do because the business is small but when you know who you are as a person, nothing can hurt you. As long as you keep your head down, block out the words and push yourself forward, these people will disappear and they will have no power over you.
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