You have been very open about growing up in a low-income home in Ireland. How did you navigate your way into an industry that is known for employing the privileged? By working
extremely hard. I think coming from a place without a knowledge of fashion and certainly not of luxury fashion gave me a really unique perspective. I placed value in the work, the ideas and the output. Central Saint Martins is obviously full of extremely privileged individuals, and the fashion industry now is overrun with nepotism. I was really encouraged to embrace what I knew and apply it to my projects, which I was doing anyway. I also think it boils down to the fact that I don’t have the option of not succeeding, there isn’t a comfort blanket. I’m an Irish immigrant living here without family. I came here alone so you really have to be creative with how you get by. It’s about perseverance and authenticity, really.
Since graduating you have received an accolade of awards and worked with one of the most powerful fashion houses in the world, Louis Vuitton. How have all of these experiences shaped the way you view the fashion industry? It’s nice to receive
recognition, but as a designer you become very aware that a lot of these prizes and competitions are there to benefit the image of these conglomerates, and that’s as deep as it goes. As designers we have to be aware of this and realise the value in our own work. I have had a lot of offers from luxury brands since graduating and there is great power in saying 'no' and spelling out why, whether they be unsustainable ethics or the amount of pressure put on designers, saying 'no' has been a really valuable lesson. My view of fashion is changing, on many levels it’s disgusting but social media has heightened a lot of the terrible traits, there is just so much inferior product and it really shows how insecure people are. It’s very sad. But there is more transparency now so the customer is changing, and that is how we can get the mega brands to change, as at the end of the day, they only care about profit.
Women in this region are empowered despite the stereotypical narrative that the media projects. How do you think your clothes work as a catalyst to empower women all over the world?
Women empower women, and if my clothes can be a catalyst for that then I’m thrilled. I think clothes are certainly powerful in facilitating that person’s needs, and in communicating how far women’s rights have come and how women see themselves now. I’ m extremely pleased when women buy pieces to rely on, it’s incredibly rewarding as a designer.
If you could dress anyone in this region who would it be and why? I’d
like to dress the woman who discreetly discovers the collection, finds something she loves and relies on that piece in her wardrobe to feel really excellent.
Do you feel it is a designer’s responsibility to create diversity within the industry? Certainly. But it seems
counter-intuitive to only look for it on the runway – realistically, that will change nothing, it just makes fashion folk feel a bit better. Fashion runways only appeal to a very specific set of people – so how far that reach is, seems very, very limited. These conversations around diversity are far, far more relevant in the real world, as cat walk diversity often feels like tokenism.
Do you think social media is diluting creativity by amassing their talent to a following? It’s one of the worst things
to happen in fashion. But it follows seamlessly on from this rise of celebrity designers. It’s actually a very dark time for fashion in that money can just buy you a career and pay for some good reviews. It really affects people’s mental health too, especially designers because it’s like an endless popularity contest with no end goal. I also think it is ruining fashion imagery because the quality of print and analogue has no place on an iPhone screen, and nor does any kind of real fashion.
“I don’ t have the option of not succeeding, there isn’t a comfort blanket. It’s about perseverance and authenticity”
You have mentioned that you would love to dress The Queen. What is it about The Queen that inspires you and your brand? The Queen
is an ultimate British icon. I love the colours she wears, the way she co-ordinates her outfits and how she is always carrying her handbag. And of course, her hats.
Shrimps is a fun, young brand with lots of interesting artistic inspirations. When you are designing, how do you create each piece? I
often go to art galleries and take an artist or artwork as a starting point for my collections. I also tend to play with texture and colour and my designs will come out of those initial ideas. What urged you to design wit hf aux fur? It was a conscious decision not to work with real fur due to animal cruelty, and I’d always wanted to make a faux fur coat in Breton stripes. When I came across a factory making amazing quality faux fur, I was very excited as I had never seen a quality like it before. Shrimps started from there.
Alexa Chung, Natalie Massenet and Laura Bailey are among your supporters. How has this helped to grow the brand? The support
from these amazing women has been invaluable for the brand and I am so grateful to them. Laura Bailey wearing a coat to Fashion Week was the first big exposure for the brand and that’s when all the requests started coming in.
What is the story behind your nickname Shrimps?
When I was born I was small and pink like a shrimp, and so it became my nickname! When I started Shrimps I liked the idea of the contrast between these soft fluffy coats and a crustacean. Very surreal!
Is there anything exciting coming up for Shrimps that you can tell us? So many things and some
very exciting collaborations but you will have to wait and see!
What do you think about Dubai and how do you see your brand growing in this region?
I’ve never been to Dubai but I’d really love to go. I know there are many glamorous welldressed women in Dubai that I would love to have wearing Shrimps.
What is it about being in London that in spires you? London is very much part of the Shrimps
brand aesthetic: it’s eclectic, colourful and full of interesting people and cultures.
What is your favourite item from the A/W18 collection? I love our new black Antonia bag,
it is so sparkly that it instantly makes you feel glamorous whatever you are wearing it with.