Structured, unstructured, balanced, unbalanced; these are the words that rising star Colin Horgan uses to describe his signature womenswear designs - designs that have caught the attention of the Triumph Inspiration Awards, Muuse X Vogue Talents, Tatler, Marie Claire and The Independent, to name but a few.
Growing up in Ardfert in County Kerry, Ireland, within “a loyal sports driven community…as close-knit as [his] own family”, Horgan describes his upbringing as one “sheltered from any interaction with fashion”. And yet, it was within such shelter that the young designer first picked up his pencil: “I spent a lot of time drawing; it was escapism for me, creating characters and the world they live in.”
It was during his studies at the Limerick School of Art & Design that Horgan progressed from characters to clothes when he “became obsessed with being involved in the unknown, unfamiliar area of fashion.” Transforming his skilful 2D concepts into structurally challenging 3D forms with unpredictable palettes, his latest collection ‘Drift’ for AW’15/16, contrasts natural and futuristic aesthetics and explores the excitement and uncertainty installed within organic progression.
Elizabeth Neep: You have described your designs as having a life of their own. What qualities - aesthetic or otherwise - do you seek to embody in your work?
Colin Horgan: I like my designs to have this sense of effortless decision. It’s tough to explain but I like them to have a contradiction somewhere, but also look ‘right’, like if you push it up or twist it slightly it won’t make sense to me. There's also a balance in gender within the clothes. I like to have a masculine shape with a delicate fragility to it - cue contradiction.
EN: And what would you say are your key sources of inspiration?
CH: I am definitely excited by imagery with emotion in it - be it angry, sad or sexual. I like to create my own story by working on a collage of imagery, words and textures.
EN: Can you explain a little about the progression from inspiration to final product?
CH: After gathering my imagery and a board that can include possible textures, swatches, fabrics and colours, I explore what the underlining concept for the collection might be. It's always very rough, the silhouettes are usually unresolved but I may bring one idea forward.
EN: Then from there… where does your design process take you next?
CH: Next, I start to think about merchandisable pieces, for example, how many jackets, dresses, skirts etc. - again never fully resolved but something I start to think of as the collection evolves. Taking one good shape, I begin to prototype or toile it. I love draping and working either onto or away from the body - once I commit to a silhouette, the collection begins to fall together. Finally, fabric allocation and colour go hand-in-hand and sometimes at the early stages I might create a colour response to the collection’s story.
EN: Is this the process you followed when creating ‘Drift’ for AW’15/16?
CH: To a point, yes - but after look three, the collection began to have a life of its own - walking and talking to me. I was too controlling in designing the first looks - the shapes began to look a bit stale. Instead, the collection became about progression and how life is much more exciting when it has ups and downs; ‘Drift’ was all about letting go.
EN: How did this overarching concept affect craftsmanship?
CH: I pushed myself in terms of fabrication - I wanted there to be a modern balance to ‘Drift’ - not too techy but not just resorting to what I usually work with - leather. I used a lot of silk bonding on leather bases and bonded jersey. Bonded strapping and exaggerated ruffles became a forefront for the collection along with silver embellishment in the background.
EN: And the collection can now be seen in the cARTel, Dubai...
CH: It’s in their showroom - very exciting as this is the first time my work has been introduced to the United Arab Emirates. The store’s concept and my aesthetic were a good balance so naturally I made the jump when [they] offered to have AW’15/16 stocked there!
EN: So what’s next?
CH: I am currently completing an MA in Fashion Womenswear at The Royal College of Art, London - I know here I will be challenged from all angles but I am very excited to evolve as a womenswear designer. Long term? I would love to bring my own vision to [the] London or Paris catwalks but still have a lot to learn. I’d definitely [like] my own brand or label one day.
EN: What’s the best piece of advice you have received in your career to date?
CH: It was from my parents: “Be nice to the people on your way up, because you never know who you’ll meet on your way back down.”
Words: Elizabeth Neep
Photographer: Darren Monahan
Hair and Make-Up: Aisling McElligott at MUAH
Model: Alexandra Furlong at NotAnother Agency