Irish born, London based designer, Fiona O’Neill, explores themes of surrealism and optical illusions in her work.
Since graduating from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Fashion Design, Fiona has gone on to receive accolades in innovative design, having been awarded the Young Designer L’Oreal Professional Prize in 2014 and finalised for the global H&M Design Award in 2015, with her signature prints and designs also being featured in exhibitions internationally.
Launching her eponymous label in 2019, Fiona’s designs incorporate different art forms and application processes such as screen printing, painting by hand and ceramic sculpting. Synonymous for its psychedelic warping prints and bold silhouettes, Fiona also works to source and use eco-friendly materials in her designs. The aim is to continue to work towards a more sustainable future and pursue slow fashion by designing seasonless collections.
Fiona is part of the uprising wave of talent with a new approach to fashion; building a brand that supports and champions positive change in the industry whilst cultivating a spirit of colourful and innovative artistic exploration.
Shammi Popat caught up with Fiona to chat about how her Irish heritage influences her work, why pushing for a more responsible future is important and what she has learnt from the challenges of the past year.
Whereabouts in Ireland did you grow up and when did you move to London?
I grew up in Dublin, and moved to London to study in 2010.
What impact has your Irish heritage had on you starting your brand? Do you feel it influences you in any particular way?
My Irish heritage has had a huge impact on my work. I find when I go home I recognise it more every time. Mostly in the colours I use and the patterns in my prints, both are subconsciously inspired by my surroundings in Ireland and the graphics there.
Your work often overlaps within the art world. How do you implement your artistic values into your garments?
I usually focus my artistic values in the concepts of the collections and the execution of the prints, but each project is different. In the past I have hand cast my own buttons and made ceramic like prints as it fit in with the concept.
As an independent brand, what have been the biggest challenges you have faced since launching your self-named label?
Navigating the production in a pandemic has to be the biggest challenge but there have been a few. Every label is different and is built around the individual so it is not a one size fits all system, you really have to keep at it until you find what works best for you.
Could you talk us through the sourcing of your materials and how you are trying to push for a more responsible future, and the importance that holds as a designer in 2021?
The sourcing of our materials changes depending on what we need for the idea but I always start with sustainable/GOTS or organic suppliers and try to choose an eco friendly version of what we need unless absolutely necessary. This also goes for our printing materials where we choose GOTS certified inks. I didn't set out to start a sustainable brand, I just think if you are starting a label at the moment you need to think about the environmental impact and I try to make good choices based on this. It will always be a working progress.
How did you come across the handmade method of your prints during the design process?
I have tried a range of techniques but I love the texture you get with screen printing.
How has the lockdown been for you on a personal level as well as a brand level?
I think the lockdown has been tough for everyone but I also think rest and reflection is so important. When you work for yourself it can be easy to get lost in the work and deadlines so it is important to take time to reflect and think if there is a better way of doing things, otherwise you can very easily burn out. In a way lockdown has been a good chance to do this.