‘ Red- car­pet style com­men­tary is a blood sport’

As Peter O’Brien’s new col­lec­tion de­buts in Dunnes Stores, the de­signer vents to Deirdre McQuil­lan on ‘ matchy matchy’ clothes . . . and more

The Irish Times Magazine - - FASHION -

Peter O’Brien’s col­lec­tion for Dunnes Stores is his first sum­mer col­lec­tion in 10 years. When we meet in Ap­pas­sion­ata’s flower- filled shop in Dublin, where it is be­ing pho­tographed be­fore its April 12th launch, he ad­mits in his typ­i­cal self- dep­re­cat­ing way that he is ner­vous about it.

“Sum­mer is much more dif­fi­cult com­mer­cially be­cause there is so much more bite in win­ter – heav­ier ma­te­ri­als, coats. It is harder to cap­ture peo­ple in sum­mer and you have to think about races or wed­dings,” he says, wheel­ing out the clothes rail.

On many sar­to­rial sub­jects, he has forth­right opin­ions that are elo­quently ex­pressed. Get him go­ing on “spe­cial oc­ca­sions” and he’s off at full speed.

“When I think about that phrase, I have to lie down in a dark­ened room – it ter­ri­fies me be­cause it goes with the matchy- matchy hats, shoes and bags and [ it] looks like what the French called en di­manche, too Sun­dayed up – posh clothes, dressed just to be posh and not to wear what you would wear ev­ery day”.

So what’s wrong with dress­ing up, we ask? The rit­ual of dress­ing up he ac­cepts “and there is a lovely ac­count in The Ed­war­dians by Vita Sackville West about get­ting ready for a ball and the sound of swish- ing silk, so I do un­der­stand the joy of it. But there is no need to put on a dis­guise be­cause you have a spe­cial oc­ca­sion. It’s like the Queen when she wears thou­sands of pounds worth of jew­ellery just as if they were brooches from a high- street store – it’s un­self­con­scious. Just put on my clothes and forget about them,” he shrugs.

The col­lec­tion which fea­tures two stand­out pieces – a black/ pink Prince of Wales check sum­mer coat, the fab­ric from a fa­mous mill in Italy and a long navy silk dress – is a small one in his fa­mil­iar re­stricted pal­ette of navy and pale blue dou­ble crêpe and what he calls a Marie An­toinette blue green, “a rather in­de­fin­able colour which I love”. There are over­size white silk poplin blouses, skirts trimmed with rib­bon de­tail, a shapely black coat and two navy jack­ets.

The shoot has been de­lib­er­ately styled with flat shoes: “I think you can wear a posh dress with a pair of flats – I wanted it to be visu­ally light, sum­mery and easy. When ev­ery­one i s matchy matchy and t oo out­fit­ted, it means that you can end up look­ing like a mem­ber of the cho­rus in an am­a­teur dra­matic pro­duc­tion of My Fair Lady.”

His views on racing style are equally adamant. “If you are stand­ing in a field at the races in six- inch heels – and in Ire­land prob-

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