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Domnall makes the move from Smart Swag to catwalk couture

20 September 2018

October is fast approaching, and that can only mean one thing, the return of the North West’s premiere fashion showcase – Fashion Fest - is just around the corner, taking place on Saturday October 13th.

Fashion Fest has become the ultimate platform for the finest young designers in the North West to present their work and take inspiration from some of the more established industry figures featuring at the event.

Among the local designers debuting work at this year’s showcase will be local artist and Smart Swag founder Domnall Starkie. Already well known for his eclectic range of unique pieces of art, upcycled furniture and jewellery, Domnall has turned his attentions to producing a bold and dynamic clothing collection based on his own unique graphic printing style.

The collection has been a long-standing ambition of Domnall’s and Fashion Fest offered him the opportunity to branch out and see his work translated into a functional but fashionable clothing range, which is both eco-friendly and on trend, as he explained.

“I’ve produced some pieces of clothing in the past which incorporated screen, block printing, hand painting and dip-dying methods but I really wanted to progress this further and come up with a full collection of my own designs. Up to now I’ve only really showcased my work in Smart Swag so this will be my first proper showing on a catwalk.

“I love to push the boundaries a bit with my work and I’m always setting myself new challenges. This was an opportunity to step away from my comfort zone and draw on my experience as a graphic illustrator, while working in a new medium.”

While Domnall has always been creative, working with textiles is practically in his DNA, thanks to his family connection with the local shirt industry.

“When I was growing up I was very conscious of the importance of textiles and clothing,” he reveals. “My granny was a seamstress and she worked in the shirt factories like so many women who were the backbone of local industry back in the day. She showed me how to use a sewing machine so she gave me the practical skills to produce my work.

“I think it makes sense that we should be trying to revive that connection with the textile industry here, and creating a hub for artists and designers that reflects that sense of heritage and pride. The Fashion and Design Hub is already paving the way for more and more young designers trying to break into the fashion industry, and is doing great work in building the profile of the city. While events like Fashion Fest provide a platform to showcase that work to a wider audience.

When it comes to art there are few mediums that Domnall hasn’t mastered, and it’s his sheer versatility as an artist which has led to this recent transition.

“I originally did my degree in illustration, but never wanted my creativity to be limited to just one aspect of art and design. Although at times I’ve had an initial fear of exploring different mediums and styles I have always pushed myself to try new avenues of creativity. Over the years I’ve realised that you have to just do what you want to do, and if you put 100% into that you can achieve anything.

“What’s great about having my own business is that you have the freedom to be versatile and try new things and basically just give it a go. The Smart Swag ethos is very much about taking pieces of jewellery, furniture etc and recreating it into something beautiful. I’m a big believer in upcycling, reusing old and new sustainable materials.

“I work alongside another local artist in the business Pauric Lawne - we have very different styles. Where I would have a more fluid approach, Pauric is very structured and precise. He’s produced some really amazing pieces of upcycled furniture, and he’s done some brilliant pieces using string and nails. He takes a very mathematical approach to things which is very different from my work, but we work really well together.

“In producing this collection I’ve also had the opportunity to work with my former teacher Eilish O’Kane which has been amazing. Eilish has her own workshop at home where she produces her own pieces and she has been invaluable in achieving the quality I wanted to bring to the designs in terms of production. She has always been a real inspiration - in school she used to bring me back paints and has always encouraged me to be confident in my work.”

Domnall’s work is informed also by his concern for the environment and a desire to utilise as much natural and reusable material as possible in his pieces. “I am very conscious of respecting the environment so I do try to use ethically sourced, vegan friendly and recyclable materials where I can and only ever use water based dyes. 

“I also want my designs to be wearable and as flattering to women as possible. I’ve tried to use shapes which are suited to anyone whether they’re size 8 or size 16.

“I’m delighted with the collection I’ve produced, the designs are quite bold and stark and think they reflect the illustrative nature of my work. I would love to see the work develop further and to keep going with it to see how it can evolve. I love the sense of creating something that makes people feel better when they’re wearing it. Some of the garments are hand painted and all of the vinyl jewellery in the collection are one-offs made from old records, which I believe adds to their appeal, as they are totally unique.

“I can’t wait to display the work on the catwalk and hopefully it will be something I can focus on taking further in the future.”

You can see Domnall Starkie’s original designs on show in the Guildhall as part of a stunning array of work from local and international designers on Saturday October 13th at 7.30pm. To book tickets for the big night go to www.derrystrabane.com/fashionfest or follow us on Instagram @FashionFestDerry