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Local designers to steal the show at Fashion Fest

11 October 2017

This Saturday night the Guildhall will provide the stunning backdrop for the North West’s biggest fashion showcase event as Fashion Fest returns for another glittering celebration of design.

It’s the fourth outing for the festival and the highlight of the local fashion calendar, providing a platform for emerging new talent to show their work, as well as the opportunity to view new collections by some leading designers. This year renowned British fashion designer Jenny Packham will be showing her 2017/18 bridal collection alongside some exceptional pieces by some of the freshest new faces on the fashion scene.

Among them is Orla Phillips, currently a resident designer at the Fashion and Textile Design Centre based in Shipquay Street. Since opening in 2014 the centre has become a hub for local designers offering support for anyone seeking to gain a foothold within the fashion and retail sector of the North West.

Orla is among the network of young designers who are based at the hub, where they can avail of support in bringing their work from the initial concept phase through to product development, with advice to help avoid the pitfalls of the commercial world along the way, including finance and funding, production, legal advice, marketing and market sales.

Now working on her A/W 2018 collection, Orla believes events such as Fashion Fest have been integral in helping her reach new audiences and acted as a catalyst in establishing a profile as a professional designer. Her cutting edge designs have already been attracting the attention of the media, and she hopes that her fearless approach to challenging stereotypes will help her follow in the footsteps of her fashion idol Alexander McQueen.

While she’s inspired by McQueen’s innovative approach to design, her creativity is rooted roots much closer to home, as she explained.

“From a young age I’ve always had a deep love for art and fashion,” she revealed. “Growing up I would admire my grandmother knitting and my grandfather would create beautiful paintings, which inspired me to explore my creative side. I became eager to learn how to knit and fell in love with drawing. My passion for creativity has grown ever since which encouraged me to study fashion and textiles at Ulster University, where I’ve developed and grown as a designer.”

Orla’s work includes some daring unisex designs which challenge the boundaries of gender and her tactile pieces utilise not only the look but the feel of her specially selected fabrics.

“Alexander McQueen is someone I really admire most within the fashion industry and his work inspires me to express my unique ideals of fashion. He wasn’t afraid to break the boundaries, creating the most extraordinary and unique designs, with each collection portraying a meaningful story or message. McQueen was truly an innovator within the fashion world and for me arguably one of the best designer to have lived.

“I feel it’s important to push the boundaries of fashion,” Orla insists. “I don’t believe that fashion should conform to gender stereotypes, fashion should challenge these ideals and allow people to have the freedom and choice to express themselves however they desire.

“I’m very conscious of the fabrics I use - texture plays an important role within my designs as I feel it gives the garments character and dimension. For me the feel of the garment is just as important as the aesthetic look.”

And the best advice for young designers she believes, is not to conform to the conventional in order to achieve success.

“The biggest challenge I’ve faced within the local fashion industry was trying to establish myself as a designer,” she admits. “But I’ve found that the local fashion industry is very supportive of new emerging designers. Showcases like Fashion Fest and facilities like the Fashion and Textile Design Centre are incredibly supportive of emerging designers, providing opportunities to promote and develop our passion.

“I would advise young designers to work hard and to be fully committed to your work. At times things can get tough but persevere until you achieve your goals. It’s important to find your signature style and aesthetic, have fun with your imagination, run wild with creativity and challenge yourself to push the boundaries of fashion.

“Fashion fest offers a wonderful, unique opportunity to promote and celebrate the talent of local designers. It’s especially important for emerging designers like myself to showcase our work at Fashion Fest, as it presents opportunities that we may not otherwise have access to being new to the industry. It’s also a great opportunity for networking and a platform to promote ourselves within the fashion world.”

You can see Orla’s work at the spectacular Fashion Fest event on Saturday October 14, doors open at 7pm and the show begins at 8pm.

A limited number of tickets for Saturday night’s event are still available to purchase at www.derrystrabane.com/fashionfest or contact the Fashion Fest team on telephone: 028 7137 6506.  Tickets are also on sale from the Guildhall Reception, Derry and The Alley Theatre, Strabane.