We're very excited to be working with Holly Jade O' Leary for our upcoming fashion show, and can't wait to share what she's designing with you all. In this interview, Jo Boon finds out more about her sources of inspiration, her passion for the environment, and her varied artistic background.
How did you begin working as a designer?
I originally trained in Music Industry Management! I was Head Stylist and Manager at Prangsta Costumiers, an independent theatrical and high fashion boutique and events company for over 5 years, and I became used to garments, and the way they move with the body. When I moved to Berlin in 2014, after spending 5 months as Art Director of Berlin Alternative Fashion Week I began scripting and writing my own shows, immersive theatre, short performances, music, and I created characters for the stories, performing myself and casting my friends, and staging events, club nights and exhibitions across the city. I tended to use reclaimed materials to begin with, to create one off bespoke pieces, and opened an atelier with some friends, with a theatre and rehearsal space in a basement in Neukolln, in an arthouse in Weibensee and at The Greenhouse, Berlin. So, my designs originally began as stage wear, wearable art. I tend to take inspiration in a concept, rather than a medium, and look for different ways of expressing this and inviting the suspension of disbelief.
Are there others who inspire(d) you?
My mother is brilliant. She’s a textile artist who specialises in weaving and knitwear, she collects fleece from her friends’ farms, uses natural dyes and spins rows and rows of delectable wool. She also makes pottery, stained glass windows, twinkling glass stars, and creates space as an interior designer-I greatly admire her work and amazing dedication. My father is an actor and artist, he lives in Dartmoor and creates beautiful sculptural pieces from metal and wood, and has interesting taste. He introduced me to many sources of inspiration, from the films ‘Wild at Heart’ and ‘The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover’, to organic, African sculptures in silver, and the art of unique, well thought out gifts - an Art Nouveau standing gas lighter of a dancer, a handmade brass Celtic headband. Of my contemporaries Britt Foe, lead singer in Lunar and the Deception founded a blog and also an atelier - Cult Mountain which showcased artists, designers, spoken word and live music, and lends a platform to environmental issues.
My dance tutor and collaborator Diana Eugeni Le Quesne, founder of Aeroballet: www.aereoballet.com has been a brilliant mentor - she has an intelligent, holistic, polymathic approach to combining high fashion art direction, ballet and dance choreography for wellbeing and beauty, a vegan diet and nutritional plans and successful entrepreneurial skills which combines caring deeply about social issues with great art. She stages a vegan retreat in her villa in Tuscany, and we are collaborating on ‘Artemisia’ a vegan lifestyle festival in April 2018.
I have also collaborated closely with Diana Sherling, at Lily Flo Jewelry who designs responsibly sourced jewelry, who used to be head of marketing at Jaguar. She is absolutely great company for brainstorming current trends, futurism and making things happen. Of current designers I admire Stella McCartney’s advocacy of vegan leather and a cruelty free lifestyle, and commitment to issues surrounding traceability and sourcing, and Pearl Lowe’s vintage inspired floral laces, circus children’s collection and DIY approach to home and furniture restoration. I love Carla Bruni’s natural style and elegance.
What was the inspiration behind the pieces you're designing for us at Label?
Neoclassical fantasy art, the inspiration of the ‘Fairytales’ theme, and of course veganism are the key focus. A plant based diet is vital for a healthy body and mind, and was encouraged by many philosophers including Pythagoras. The artwork of Edmund du Lac, which accompanies Scottish fairy writer Andrew Lang’s work which I am researching, as fitting St Andrew’s University which has hosted many lectures and discussions about his work. My collection is inspired by the characters, history and imagery which holds our cities and is embedded within our cultural narratives and use of organic forms. Sculptures, shells, architecture and monuments, bas reliefs of flora and fauna, and the beauty of nature and the countryside. Decadent minimalism. Contemporary use of rococo art, and the concept of ‘Dasein’ the fairy architect which bends the world at will to confer design, combining myth and patterns found in nature. Play, beauty, romance, mystery, and enchantment… I am currently working on a brand collaboration with UK based manufacturers Contrado to create a capsule collection of wearable contemporary art pieces, homeware and gifts which showcase my illustrations, and are made in London using environmentally friendly printing techniques. The quality of the fabrics I use is high and I hope that the garments I make will be treasured.
Why is environmental fashion so important to you?
The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of the Earth. Even recycled polyester is disintegrating into the sea, and filling the bellies of fish. It is an important time to be proactive and motivated to make sensible buying choices, investing in natural fabrics and those which are synthesised to be biodegradable where possible. I am researching new tensiles created from chlorophyll, and grapeskin leather. There has to be more investment in responsible production and responsibly sourced materials which do not involve the exploitation of humans, animals or the land. Pioneers in the government such as Baroness Lola Young are implementing the Modern Slavery Act to ensure that large corporations have to face the public to state that that there has been no slavery within the supply chain. I believe that this should also correspond to smaller business and all companies should ensure a transparent supply chain, and this should be the norm within all aspects of textile and garment manufacture. This also requires the audience, the public to ask the right questions surrounding traceability: where does this come from? Who made it?
Due to economies of scale this would also become more affordable. I would also like to see more investment in conservation, development of sustainable plant based fibres and forests which are carefully managed to ensure that their cultivation does not restrict the movements of wildlife and natural habitats in the surrounding area and the dyes used do not pollute the marine habitats. Garment care is also vital to extend the lifespan of the gems in your wardrobe. Also, we need to talk about these topics more, encourage positive, sustainable industry practices, involve everyone in the discussion and make it a pleasure.
What would you most like people to know, or understand, about your work?
I’m mostly a writer, looking at ways to understand the connection between beauty, space and the mind - aesthetics and enchantment. The internal world and the external, how we can encourage a parity of wellbeing, investment in clean energy, and sustainable economic development. I care about rewriting the cultural conditioning surrounding our treatment of animals, particularly that of caged birds held as pets or within battery farms. My favourite book at the moment is ‘The Poetics of Space’ by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. It is about the parallels between the creative psyche and the home, the chrysalis and the shell. “The repose and the flight of being, evening’s crystallisation and the wings that open to the light”. I love creating imaginative, romantic works, working closely with dancers and composition, breathable fabrics, the silhouette and great tailoring to create a modern sense of sophistication.