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Image / Style / Irish Design

Irish Design Spotlight: Georgina O’Hanlon


By Sarah Finnan
19th Nov 2023
Irish Design Spotlight: Georgina O’Hanlon

After years working as a graphic designer, Georgina O’Hanlon started her own eponymous label in 2022. Initially specialising in hand-drawn silk scarves, the collection has since expanded to include luxurious prints, homewares and now, a new collection in aid of Temple Street Children’s Hospital too. Here, Georgina tells us more about the brand and why giving back is so important to her.

Tell us about you and your brand
In 2022, I founded Georgina O’Hanlon Illustration (GOHI), embarking on this creative journey after years of honing my skills as a graphic designer, both as a full-time professional and a freelance artist. My artistic journey began at NCAD, where I graduated in 2012, always garnering praise for my drawing abilities from a young age. In a world increasingly dominated by computer-generated graphics, I was steadfast in my desire for my brand to celebrate the timeless art of hand-drawn illustrations. To complement the intricate craftsmanship that defined my work, it was imperative to me that my creations be environmentally sustainable and cherished by those who acquire them. Thus, my journey began with silk as the ideal canvas, leading to the development of my exquisite silk scarves.

I drew inspiration from simpler times and sought to capture the profound beauty of the lush Irish landscape – my very first scarf design (and still my star performer) is the Josephine scarf, named after my late mum, who I lost in 2022 (but was privileged enough to have shared the work with before she passed) and it explores childhood memories of trips to county Clare with her.

As my creative path unfolded, I ventured into the realm of homewares, crafting couture tea towels and cosy woven blankets. With each product, I remained dedicated to delivering exceptional quality, blending them seamlessly with works of art inspired by our rich Irish heritage.

What is your mission? 
To offer products that embody the essence of artistry and Irish heritage, adding a touch of luxury to everyday life.

Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
My journey in the world of artistry has been a continuous exploration. I’ve always had an artistic inclination, but finding the right path was a bit of a puzzle. In 2012, I graduated from NCAD and immediately set my sights on London, where I took on the role of a design assistant at Kate Sheridan Accessories. However, London proved to be a formidable challenge, with the high cost of living and a less-than-ideal income as a design assistant. I was offered a role back in Ireland as a graphic artist for a renowned greeting card company, hello 500 Days of Summer?! Subsequently, I assumed the position of the sole graphic designer for Kildare Village, where I honed my skills for over three years.

The desire for creative freedom and independence led me to venture into freelance design work. This decision provided me with the time and space to start crafting the vision that became my brand. In 2022, I proudly introduced my inaugural collection featuring five distinct scarf styles.

Since then, my work has graced the pages of numerous magazines, and I’ve expanded into diverse selections of homeware. With each endeavour, I’ve been fortunate to build a devoted community of customers who appreciate my artistry. Now, I’m gearing up for an exciting milestone: my first trade show in January next year, as I continue to nurture the growth of GOHI.

What kind of items do you stock? 
I started my creative journey with silk scarves, fueled by my deep admiration for Hermès. One of my favourite pastimes has always been gazing at the exquisite artwork showcased in the silk adorning the Brown Thomas windows. Over time, my artistic exploration expanded to crafting luxurious prints that could embellish your living space and recently, I ventured into experimenting with homewares. My latest endeavour was the launch of my couture tea towels, which quickly became abode essentials, selling out upon their release. Furthermore, I’m thrilled to announce my collaboration with Temple Street Children’s Hospital. Together, we’ve created a collection of 100% cotton woven art blankets, each adorned with my unique hand-drawn artwork. This time, the featured piece showcases a graceful stag and its fawn, adding a touch of elegance to your surroundings.

What new brands or items are on your radar?
I’ve recently discovered the lifestyle brand Dauphinette, however, Cheng founded her brand in 2018. Her latest collection is a testament to her upcycling genius. Her dresses, shoes, and bags are adorned with repurposed beads and resin-preserved objects, creating unique, whimsical pieces that make a joyful noise as they move. Cheng’s use of buttons, plates, and even eggshell embellishments adds an element of surprise, making her creations “living artworks.”

I am an avid ballerina pump wearer, so I am delighted that they are back in style – I am so excited to see this trend ramp up next year. Some of my favourites that I spotted at New York Fashion week were Tory Burch’s ballet-sandal hybrids and Paul Andrew’s textured ballerinas… I’ll start saving now!

In terms of homeware, I am delighted to spot the rise of dopamine decor – the antithesis of beige interiors. It’s colorful and fun, full of personality and all about decorating your home in a way that makes you happy! I’m confident statement wallpapers are coming back bigger and bolder in 2024 so watch this space – I’m currently prototyping my own designs for feature murals!

Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
Yes! I continue to maintain a part-time role as a graphic designer. The intricacies of designing, prototyping, and sampling demand a significant investment of both time and financial resources. Every penny earned from the business is meticulously reinvested, underscoring the genuine passion that fuels this endeavour. In the early stages, I adhered to a strict philosophy of minimising expenses and bootstrapping whenever feasible. Seeking guidance from the Local Enterprise Office was a pivotal step, enabling me to keep operations lean and efficient. I initiated my journey by participating in the Start Your Own Business course, an invaluable resource that continues to shape my entrepreneurial path and I have relied heavily on the mentor support they provide.

Best business advice you’ve gotten?
“Done is better than perfect.” I’ve learned this lesson firsthand by reflecting on missed opportunities from my past. Instead of constantly striving for perfection, I now prioritise refining the mechanics of my business to identify what works and what doesn’t.

Favourite fashion/design accounts you follow?
@patternobserver – this account showcases captivating collections of exquisite prints and patterns by inspiring textile designers and businesses on Instagram. @bof – the Business of Fashion is renowned for providing a comprehensive daily resource tailored to fashion creatives, executives, and entrepreneurs. Following the BoF feed guarantees you’ll remain well-informed about the latest news and the future trajectory of the fashion industry. @wgsn – WGSN is an invaluable resource for industry professionals worldwide. The platform provides industry expertise and insight into the future consumer, lifestyle, fashion and product design trends.

Best fashion purchase 
The Stella McCarthy Falebella tote. I bought it in Designer Exchange in 2020 – I believe it’s from 2018 – and it still looks brand new! I also am a huge fan of the McCarty brand ethos.

Other Irish brands you love
Simone Rocha’s subversive take on femininity and her innovative use of fabrics captivate me, while Shock of Grey’s jewellery designs impress with their bold shapes and vibrant colours, enriched by a compelling brand name backstory. Sorcha O’Raghallaigh stands out for her visionary approach to materials and extraordinary embroidery skills. Lastly, Noema, the eponymous brand’s founder, earns admiration for her exceptional tailoring expertise, rounding up a collection of remarkable talents in the world of Irish fashion and design.

Most useful learning since setting up a business
Be an askhole! Becoming a confident communicator has been a significant lesson on my journey. I’ve come to realise that asking for what you want is a skill that requires continuous refinement. As the old saying goes; don’t ask, don’t get! The worst that can happen is they say no. The ‘nos’ certainly can knock your confidence at the start, however, I’ve developed the ability to see them as a redirection – I’m just being given the grace to go on a better path for me.

Proudest moment so far
As I embarked on building my brand, my eagerness to collaborate with a charitable cause, especially during the Christmas season, was a driving force. I held a deep-seated interest in partnering with Temple Street Hospital, a place where I had personally received exceptional care during my childhood. It brings me immense joy to witness my Fallow and Fawn collection materialise through this collaboration.

This project stands as a significant milestone in my career, representing the pinnacle of my creative endeavours to date. The centrepiece of this collection is my brand new woven blanket, a tribute to the enduring tradition of families visiting majestic deer, perhaps even catching a glimpse of Rudolf! Remarkably, supporting their noble cause.

Furthermore, I’m excited to share the news that my blankets have earned recognition with a shortlist nomination for the prestigious Irish Design Awards, lauding their sustainable attributes. This acknowledgement underscores my commitment to designing products that not only captivate but also champion sustainability – 20% of the proceeds from this collection will be channelled directly back to the hospital.

I want my brand to be remembered for… showcasing the enchanting magic and natural beauty of our idyllic homeland, inspiring others to bring this enchantment into their own homes, and always prioritising environmental sustainability by treading lightly on our planet’s precious resources.

If I could have anyone wear my designs it would be… Lana Del Rey. I feel my designs would suit her style which I’d describe as a blend of vintage glamour, melancholic romanticism and a touch of nostalgia.

Imagery provided by Georgina O’Hanlon