26th of September 2020
Interview: Martin Hufnagel
Photos: Courtesy of Fiona O'Neill

Fiona O'Neill

Irish born, London based Fiona O’Neill is the designer behind the self-named label launched in 2019.
The brand explores themes of surrealism and optical illusions, incorporating different art forms and application processes such as screen printing, painting by hand and ceramic sculpting. Fiona also works to source and use eco-friendly materials in her designs, working towards further sustainability for the future.

As an introduction for our readers, we asked her what made her start her own label, the most challenging topics for an independent designer in the UK, her most played songs on the studio playlist and her next plans.

Buy Fiona O'Neill at our shop

Fiona O'Neill Header

To be honest, walking through a showroom with more than five different collections can be very exhausting.
At some point during Fashion Week I often feel oversaturated by all the impressions and find myself shutting down.
However, magic happens when despite the fact that I’m only looking for the designers I had in mind, something catches my attention from the corner of my eye.

Exactly this scenario happened in March this year at the British Fashion Council Showroom in Paris.
We were on our way out of the showroom, when a rag of clothing with beautiful patterns and shapes made me stop.
One moment later I was talking to Fiona about her first collection. She was trying things on, and explained to me every garment in a way that it was impossible not to be fascinated by.

The Squeeze T-Shirt in Duck & Caramel // Available at our shop
The Squeeze T-Shirt in Salt & Carousel // Available at our shop

At what point did you think about starting your own label?

One of my earliest memories is of me drawing dresses on the back of a napkin in a restaurant, perhaps when I was 4 or 5 years old. I remember my mum’s friend saying I would make a good fashion designer, and I think that is when It started: I’ve wanted to have my own label since then.
  I always had the vision, but it took a long time to be ready. It was only after graduating from Central Saint Martins and working in the industry for a few years that I found it was the right time.

Do you remember the first piece that you designed that made you think: I’m good at this?

This would have to be when Björk commissioned me to create a look for her based on my graduate collection for an editorial cover shoot with The Gentlewoman magazine. She was my first customer.

What was the reaction to your first collection?

It was very good, much better than I expected for a first collection...and I’m very grateful!

As an independent label in the UK, what’s the most challenging topic at the moment?

There are so many at the moment.
This year has really shone a magnifying glass on a lot of very important issues that needed to change for a long time, and I’m happy about that. The most challenging as a new brand is navigating Covid-19 and the new challenges it brings. Keeping our studio, partners and customers safe is the most important thing.

Fiona O'Neill 20: Exercises in Daily Living on Vimeo

Where’s your favourite place in London? 

I didn’t know how much I loved my print room until we went into lockdown. I’ve missed this the most, and have come to realise it really is my favourite place to be working. It was such a nice moment to walk back in.

What’s the most played song on your studio playlist? 

Fiona Apple - Fast as You Can

What are the next plans for your label and for you personally? 

We’re currently working on our next digital showcase to present a new collection, which we’ll be sharing with you in September during London Fashion Week. We’re also planning to expand our range, which I’m looking forward to.
I have a lot of ambitions for the brand, I really want to build a brand that is supporting and championing positive change in the industry. We will continue to responsibly source fabrics and trims, and pursue slow fashion by designing seasonless collections.

Thank you Fiona, for being part of The Wasted Hour

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