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Spotlight On: Irish designer Georgina O’Hanlon

For this week’s Spotlight On feature, we spoke to Irish designer Georgina O’Hanlon.

Since graduating from NCAD in 2012, Georgina has worked for several independent accessory brands in London as well as some of the largest international fashion houses in the world.

Georgina was the lead graphic designer for Kildare Village until 2018, and is now consulting as a designer full time for several clients.

In addition, she has created her own brand called Georgina O’Hanlon Illustration, which consists of silk scarves and prints.

Ahead of the launch of her first collection on May 17th, Georgina spoke exclusively to Goss.ie about her passion for design, her brand’s sustainability practices, and her plans for the coming months.

Take a look:

When did you first discover your passion for design? 

From a very early age I knew that I wanted to work in a creative field. I explored various avenues as a teenager and when I finished school I decided to partake in a portfolio preparation course, which awarded me a spot in the National College of Art & Design.

I sampled many techniques in college and I graduated with an honours degree in design in 2012. I went on to work with many cool independent brands in London as a graphic designer and when I returned to Ireland, I was offered a fantastic opportunity to become the lead graphic designer for Kildare Village. From there, I collected some clients and went freelance in 2018.

During the pandemic in 2020, I began researching my own brand of silk scarves – an interest of mine I toyed with on many occasions throughout the years – now after much drawing, designing, sampling and collaborating with suppliers I am finally in a position to unveil my first collection. I am beyond stoked that I finally took the plunge!

Who are your biggest influencers in the world of fashion and design? 

Stella McCartney and Mara Hoffman are some of my favorites, particularly in terms of their ethical practices.

Hayley Menzies is another designer that deeply inspired me. In 2011, Menzies set up a stall in Portobello Market selling handmade recycled fur scarves, now her work is stocked in over 100 stores in 17 countries worldwide! One of the integral ethics to her brand is that it is based on equality.

I have seen some terrible practices within the fashion industry – many people aren’t aware that this is an issue in the first world, although the level of exploitation is nowhere near that of the third, so, I knew that I didn’t want to engage in any practice exploiting others.

Aesthetically, Simone Rocha all day, everyday, the work is exquisite! Some of my fashion crushes are Zooey Dechanel, Alexa Chung, Lana Del Ray and Dawn O’Porter, I am very into the 60’s!

How would you describe your designs? What/where do you take inspiration from? 

My designs are inspired by Ireland, the current collection is reminiscent of childhood trips to County Clare. I spent my summers with my Mother, Josephine, around the West of Ireland.

Today’s world is undeniably digital. New technologies – from social media to artificial intelligence – make the planet we inhabit unrecognisable from 20 years ago. This collection explores a simpler time, and is exploding with flowers and fauna found all throughout the Irish landscape, such as the curious chaffinch and the brilliant peacock butterfly to the wild Irish rose, symbolising the strength and resilience of Irish women, both past and present.

As I grow older I fall more in love with my native landscape everyday, so I wanted to allow my customers to delve into a more nostalgic time period and as my customer base is in the same sort of age bracket as myself, I imagine they are hungry for products that capture the essence of a simpler time with less emails to return!

Tell us a bit about your brand. What can we expect from your first collection? 

It was really important to me that the pieces were of exceptional quality, so I spent a lot of time researching and sampling with silk suppliers and printers. I eventually landed on a silk supplier in Italy as I found the quality and craftsmanship unmatched and the digital prints are designed and printed in Ireland. You can expect exquisite quality pieces adorned with stunning traditional hand-drawn artwork, infused with love and care.

You have designed some stunning scarves. Is there any other accessories you would like to launch in the future?

I am very excited to branch into some other areas including throws for home, greeting cards, notebooks and cotton bags. I am currently researching some eco-friendly options for new materials and I am on the hunt for a talented Irish seamstress to help me bring my visions to life.

Your brand engages in some sustainable practices. Tell us more about that and why making your brand sustainable was important for you? 

I knew that I didn’t want to add to the fast fashion monster. Half a tonne of clothing every minute is dumped into a landfill in Ireland. As our house truly is on fire, obvious actions stand out – flying less, driving less, taking public transport. But as the global textile industry is producing more greenhouse gas emissions than aviation and shipping combined – it would make more sense that sanctions are imposed on fast fashion.

Also, the main focus of my brand was to display exquise hand drawn illustrations that couldn’t be replaced by anyone else, so it made sense to work on luxury fabrics at a higher price point. My vision was to create products to be passed down throughout the generations and to be worn for years to come – Georgina O’Hanlon illustration is proudly anti-trend.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own brand? 

For me, I was paralyzed by fear for so long, but I began to develop the brand in 2020, when the pandemic hit. I, like so many others, looked towards creativity in order to develop resilience towards the situation.

My biggest regret is not starting sooner! I kept waiting until I was “ready” because I didn’t want to make mistakes, but unfortunately mistakes are the only way that you learn! For me, the scariest place to be is in the same position a year from now. So my advice is to start small, but just start.

If you want to launch a brand, sit down and write out why you want to begin, what it means to you and think about your customer. From there just take small steps, for example if you wish to create a brand of clothing, but don’t have the skillset, sit with a seamstress and see what you could do together. Don’t overthink the final destination, for me, that was what held me back! It’s your life, so go for it while you can!

What can we expect to see from you in the year ahead? 

I plan to develop one more collection for 2022, as I am a one woman show I will only be developing limited edition collections maximum twice per year. This fits into my sustainability model as I never want to produce overstock.

As previously mentioned, I will be sampling with new materials in order to branch into other accessories and I will continue to reduce my carbon footprint. I am keen to collaborate with other Irish designers as my brand develops, I follow so many independent brands on insta and the talent out there is fire!

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