Home Features Spotlight On: Irish designer Aoife McNamara

Spotlight On: Irish designer Aoife McNamara

Each week we're putting the spotlight on an inspiring woman in Ireland.

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For this week’s Spotlight On feature we’re chatting to Aoife McNamara, Ireland’s premier up-and-coming designer.

23-year-old Aoife has already dressed huge names in the Irish fashion scape, such as Suzanne Jackson, Erica Fox, Niamh Cullen, Niamh DeBrun and Louise Cooney – with Louise donning one of Aoife’s bespoke powder blue suits on the streets of New York Fashion Week.

The Limerick talent has launched her self-titled label AOIFE primarily through social media, with an Instagram highlight containing her new collection, but a website is currently in the making, as is her next collection, which she describes as the most true to her own signature as a creative.

How did you originally become interested in fashion and design?

I went to college in LSAD and I got into knowing that I wanted to go to college when I was in fourth year, I went to see one of the college fashion shows, and I remember just being mesmerised be seeing the clothes on the runway and thinking ‘oh my God, people  actually create these?’

Once I saw that I said okay, now I know what I want to do, so I focused then to get into the course. After that I interned in New York with Marc Jacobs and then went to Paris after, so I suppose Iv’e sort of always known I wanted to do it.

On the realities of interning in the New York fashion industry:

I interned when I was in third year for five months as a design intern with Marc Jacobs, so it was insane. I went over by myself not knowing anyone, and the whole experience of that was so manic, so crazy, and it really just opened my eyes up to what the fashion industry is when it gets to that level.

Seeing a designer who I have admired for so long in action was just crazy.

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And on moving to Paris to pursue fashion:

Straight after college I moved to Paris, and I went over there as well not knowing anyone and I didn’t even have a job, I didn’t have French. I had a job for Paris Fashion Week and I was working for a week, and after that I went around with my CV running around Paris with no French so it was a bit mad, but it was the most amazing experience. Paris was crazy and I think that really opened my eyes to not to just the fashion industry but to how hard you have to work. The amount of interviews I did… Iv’e never done so many interviews in my life!

Taking in how the Parisians run their couture houses, I really learned the art for sewing and detail in France.

Has your time in Paris influenced your style of design?

A lot of my fabrics are from Paris – I use a lot of tweed that’s based in Paris. I am inspired a lot by the Parisian style and would buy a lot of my fabrics over there, especially because in Ireland many people could have the same fabrics as you.

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What is the importance of sustainability for AOIFE?

When I was starting AOIFE I knew that I wanted sustainability and Irish heritage to be at the heart of my brand, and it just made perfect sense for me to work with Irish mills as a sustainable material which is biodegradable, we’re so fortunate to have it here in Ireland. Working with an Irish mill which is so exciting for me, is something that I knew my brand would be, as well as the quality in wool so it all ties in to who I am as a person.

How big a part does social media play in your work?

That’s how I got started and how I’m still working, I take all my bookings through Instagram. I have done everything through my Instagram account, so I’m so fortunate that the platform is so big right now for me. Bloggers have helped me so much – I dressed Louise Cooney for London Fashion Week at the beginning of the year which was insane, and I’ll be dressing her again for New York Fashion Week. I’m working with a good few more bloggers now with my new collection so that’s really exciting.

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Who is your dream celebrity or influencer to dress?

Vogue [Williams] is on my radar! She is definitely one who I want to dress.

Tell us about your upcoming Spring/Summer collection:

All of my collections have been ‘me’ but I feel like this collection, that won’t be launching until January, is really 100 percent me. It’s Irish tweeds, I was working with an Irish mill on it. The collection is what I envisioned AOIFE to be.

Iv’e created my own weave and my own print onto the fabric so it’s all my own colours on wool and it’s just everything I envisioned my brand to be. Irish wool mainly, mixed with silks and lavish textures. Im really excited about that collection to launch.

Do you have any more plans for the brand going forward?

Yes, so I have the website which is nearly done and I’m hoping to do some pop-up shops, I feel like they will really suit my brand. For me I want to talk more through AOIFE Ireland about sustainable fashion, that’s one thing going forward I really want to have a voice on. I feel like it’s so important as a young designer to share my knowledge on sustainable design. I want to incorporate having a voice as well as my collections.

What is your advice for young designers? 

The main thing is staying true to yourself. Iv’e seen so many designers getting side tracked, looking at other designers and then putting that into their collection, and it’s so clear to see when a designer has copied or taken inspiration from someone else and it’s not their own.

Stay in your own lane, don’t get distracted, if someone is doing really well, stick to what you’re good at and if your brand is going to succeed it’s going to succeed however you decide to portray it and not by copying other people. I strongly believe in that, and if you believe in yourself you can succeed. People will recognise that.