Meet the O' Riordans, two of Ireland's most exciting fashion design talents

The Limerick School of Art and Design students didn't let Covid stand in the way of their graduate collections


For Aoibhin and Muireann O' Riordan, the first half of 2020 did not turn out the way that they planned.

The Co Cork twins were in the midst of their final year in the Limerick School of Art and Design (where they both studied fashion design) when the pandemic hit. Materials were bought and sketches etched out in anticipation of the making of their final collections – something they both had been working towards since their college education began.

However, Covid-19 put a halt to those expectations.

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"We had been finalising and making look one and then Covid-19 came and we were told that we were going home for two weeks," Aoibhin says. "No one was to make the collections because they couldn't provide us with the sewing room or mannequins and it wouldn't be fair to do it by ourselves."

As we all know, two weeks turned into two months and two months turned into half a year. Final markings were based on online work and design sketches. Both girls received first-class honours and technically graduated, but it was without the physical final collections. Taking matters into their own hands, the twins decided to take their completed designs and make the garments themselves.

"We had been working on the sketches and designs since November and only started the technical part in February," Muireann explains. "But we really knew about our stories and our fabrics before lockdown happened so we were very confident in our instincts."

Design elements

In terms of design, the twins strayed in opposite directions. Aoibhin focused on structural shapes, while Muireann looked at draping with a softer focus.

Aoibhin's architectural designs were inspired by Irish boxer Katie Taylor. The collection hones in on her process in the ring, going from challenging structural garments to drape flowing and falling apart. The shapes project power. Dominant shoulders are met with defined waists, while hues of purple and cobalt augment the energy.

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"I really look up to Katie as a person," Aoibhin says. "She has shown us how to stay determined and to be brave and to keep picking ourselves up. People might be surprised to think she is inspiring the fashion side of things but she has shown us that we can succeed."

Muireann looked at history and regality for her collection. Following a visit to the Palace of Versaille, she was mesmerised and chose Marie Antoinette as the focus of her designs. Specifically, Marie Antoinette's journey from innocent newcomer to a romantic, decadent and powerful queen. "This is represented by gathered curtain drape that goes from completely covering the body to being pulled back and revealed," Muireann explains.

Determination

It's a testament to the twin's resolve that they rallied together to create their dream final collections. Yet, they say it couldn't have been done without the help of outsiders. Fundraising had been completed to pay for the fashion films that accompany the work but these were never produced. To showcase their clothes to the fullest potential, Aoibhin and Muireann reached out to well-known industry creatives about a possible photoshoot they could add to their portfolios.

"We got in contact with the photographer Naomi Gaffey, her sister the stylist Corina Gaffey and NotAnother agency and they all helped us. They knew we weren't experienced when it came to photoshoots and they explained what we needed to do and how long it would take," Aoibhin says.

"It was so good of them. We were blown away because they are so established in the industry here."

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The future

So what's next for two of Ireland's brightest design talents? The answer is everything and anything.

Muireann says she wants to gain experience is as many areas as possible. "There are so many aspects in the fashion industry from high fashion to costume design to styling. I really want to experience it all and decide what area I like the most."

Aoibhin feels similar, saying: "I would love to see what costume is like and to go back to high fashion and experience Fashion Week and the buzz and creativity. It's exciting to see what's going to come next for us. And then in five years, we might know exactly what area we want to stay in or we may even start our own brand."

Well, whatever they decide to do, it's clear the future of Irish fashion is in two pairs of very capable hands.

Images: Photographed by Naomi Gaffey, styled by Corina Gaffey and modelled by Leah Hannigan @ NotAnother Agency 


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