Emily Maree discusses Irish influences, designing for men, creating stories through clothing and the future for We Are Islanders with Rosie O’Reilly, the Creative Designer of Irish brand We Are Islanders
When did you first decide you wanted to go into fashion design?
I was lucky to have a mother who taught me what style and a strong aesthetic were at a young age. Fashion was never mentioned but aesthetic, textiles and making were a key part of my life. A want to express a philosophy and vision through fabric and making came at an early age, fashion designing then became a tool to do it with.
What institutions and designers did you study with?
My background is in Philosophy and Sociology so I took the scenic root with night courses etc in fashion and textiles.
When did you start We Are Islanders and why?
The name came from many moments looking out to the Irish Sea. The metophorical landscape of an island is the backbone and vision for the label. Always ask questions about what’s beyond your view point and what’s in front of you. So We Are Islanders works as a conceptual project where I create artwork that responds to these questions and this feeds into the design process. Like everything, the We Are Islanders clothing label only happened when the timing was right and three people shared a vision to make it happen.
What was your first collection about and how have your designs evolved since then?
The first collection was about creating a story – communicating important issues through clothing. It was also about understanding the fabrics available at home and abroad that upheld the principles of better practice, craft and innovation that we believed lived up to the We are Islanders aesthetic. The brand is driven by a need to understand culture and society, create a discourse around theses issues and build a project that is bigger than the clothing alone.
What has influenced your latest collection?
Print has been key – we’ve been experimenting with freehand screen printing techniques which has been amazing. Each piece is a one-off and I can take a theme/colour and pallet and translate it into a layered print on silk. The fabric then has a narrative of its own.
Who is the We Are Islanders woman? Would you consider designing for men in the future?
Our customer is borderless with an interest in arts and design but also has a longing for owning a story, not just a product. Menswear is in the pipeline – we’re working on a collaboration with Jameson at the moment so some great printwork will be coming out of that for A/W mens shirts.
How does it feel having your designs in shops like Wolf & Badger in the UK and having stockists as far away as China?
Who would you most love to see your work styled on?
Anyone with balls!
Who are your main style influences? What national/international designers do you look up to?
Typically influence comes from the art, science and philosophy.
What are your thoughts on the rise of Irish fashion designers?
It’s great to see a surge of Irish names across mainstream press but we have a huge amount of work to do here to preserve an incredibly rich history of textiles and making and to support designers with the vision of preserving this.
What does the future hold for you and the We Are Islanders brand? Where would you like to see the brand in five years?
We would like to expand the brand and create a global network of Islanders! We would also like to continue to add value socially and environmentally and ensure we are committing to artistic projects which enable us to do this.
What advice do you have for other young Irish designers starting out?
Tell a story worth listening to with your brand. Don’t believe the clothes are enough; let them be part of something bigger.
Photos c/o markhenderson.info, weareislanders.com, twitter.com