Galway woman Niamh Daniels has arrived on the Irish fashion scene! She has just been announced as the Best Accessory Designer of the Year 2018 at the Irish Fashion Innovation awards.
I sat down with Niamh recently over a cup of coffee in her mother’s kitchen to take a peek into the creative mind that produces the ideas for her wonderful range of scarves.
Niamh chronicles for me her experience in the fashion world to date and it quickly became apparent that she has packed a huge amount of ‘work’ into a relatively short space of time in locations as far flung as Limerick, New York and London!
Today, Niamh is concentrating on printed silk scarves, while she develops other aspects of her business. I have long understood that to truly understand and be a practitioner in any discipline you really have ‘deep dive’ into it from the word go.
Niamh’s ‘Fashion Design’ degree course in LIT was just that. To say it is a comprehensive programme does not do it justice. To say it is uber demanding is a bit closer to the mark. The fashion industry has long been regarded as a high octane life with no prisoners taken and a sense that you need to be resilient aside from your knowledge and ability.
It would appear that Niamh experienced most of that pressure at college – a course that only admitted twenty eight people in the first place and delved into all aspects of design over the three years, littered with projects – some lasting several months.
‘A typical project would have been to buy a piece in a shop, and reconstruct in into something new’ explains Niamh, ‘working the idea first and then the material’.
“Learning all the skills is key, for instance flat pack drawing for fashion houses’ Flat Pack drawings are the blueprints for garment manufacture. Essentially the designer is the person who connects the fabric people and the production management.
The big bad world beckoned when Niamh completed her studies in Limerick and headed to New York – the fashion coal face, as it were, where she spent one year with a knitwear supply company. The ‘back office’ of the fashion world is a far cry from the glamour of the cat walks, but it’s vital to understand what makes the industry tick!
Niamh had decided to focus on textile printing and so she signed up for the Masters programme at Birmingham City University. The Masters was achieved by portfolio – ‘Fashion accessories, Clothing & Interiors – I filled a room with all the bits & pieces ‘ Part of the course was an internship with Mirjam Rouden textile design studio in London’
‘I started to sell some scarves and more or less said ‘maybe I’ll actually do scarves’!
So, back to Galway to set up the business – ‘I did the designers course for business run by the Local Enterprise Office in 2016 and I found it very useful… and I launched at the craft fair in the Black Box in 2017 – finalised on scarves’
Chatting to Niamh you get the impression that she has a really good handle on the ‘nuts & bolts of the business side of her business – growth is now the objective. There is also a suitcase full of key skills required like drawing, photography and the technical aspects of producing the first articles for printing – these are skills and knowledge that Niamh has developed and fine tuned as she learned her craft.
It’s all very well have the technical skills; but what of the inspiration? Where do the design ideas come from.
‘Translating the dramatic landscape of Ireland into wearable art’ is the tagline on Niamh’s website
The inspiration is all round her, whether it be the Connemara landscape, her mother’s paintings and just about anything that captures her observant eye. Niamh’s final year project in LIT was entitled ‘How Your Memories Fade Away’. The objective was to demonstrate that in print and textures.
To illustrate the theme Niamh came up with a printed dress inspired by a Francis Bacon picture and a knitwear pattern on a jacket inspired by a scan of a brain with dementia! How do you even think of all that I ask?
Niamh explains ‘Margaret was going to be a major influence’ referring to her grandmother who had reached a great age and was becoming a little forgetful, but retained her intense pride in herself and her family. Far from there being any morbid sense about the theme, it’s illustrates to me how the creative mind sees nuggets of inspiration in everyday life that most of us pass by and don’t even see.
The is a new collection from Niamh Daniels coming in the summer – now armed with her latest award Best Accessory Designer of the Year further success is just around the corner.
I’ll leave the final words to Niamh herself.
Inspiration is what I see around me – each design has a story