Naoise Jo has decided to take a road less travelled in pursuing a career in fashion design. After finishing college, most young Irish design graduates tend to make the move to global fashion capitals like London or New York. Instead, after graduating from Griffith College, Naoise has continued to grow her brand – all from her South Dublin studio.
Speaking to The University Times, the designer describes where her love of fashion began. “I have always been interested in fashion from a styling point of view, and I have always been very creative, but it was only when I customised some denim shorts for my friends when I was 16 that I grew an interest in fashion design.”
She first started studying fashion design at Sallynoggin College of Further Education to see if fashion design was for her. She soon fell in love with it and hasn’t stopped since. Naoise says that she’s happiest when “sitting at my laptop or sketchbook designing”, so to be able to pursue a career in fashion design is “very exciting”. Naoise now has extensive experience in the industry, having interned at Marion Cuddy Irish Designers Emporium, Avoca and Primark.
Starting your own brand in Ireland is extremely tough. There are very few Irish designers that really make it big, and most of our well-known design talent is based in London. In Ireland, it’s particularly difficult to create a self-titled brand because the industry is so small. Naoise seems up for the challenge, though: “I decided to stay in Dublin because I really want to represent Irish design and to be involved in the growing Irish fashion industry.”
As any fashion designer, I hope to succeed as a brand in the Irish fashion industry and maybe even abroad
She explains that she finds inspiration in her Irish surroundings: “I’m a home bird and tend to find inspiration for my designs from my family history or my surroundings and so I feel like I need to be home and in my own studio to fully be relaxed and able to create.” With so many designers moving abroad, it’s refreshing to see a designer make the courageous decision to stay at home.
The designer’s graduate collection, Mine Heritage, was inspired by her grandfather’s stories of his days working in the Lancashire coal mines in the 1970s. The collection was also inspired, in part, by the pit brow lasses – female miners in Victorian Britain who were banned from working when it was discovered that they worked topless. Male miners also worked topless, but topless female miners were considered scandalous.
The pit brow lasses inspired the layering used in this collection. The collection features industrial elements, like pinafores and digital print made from photos taken at the mine itself, mixed with feminine Victorian frills and wadding. The hand-printed “663” is a prominent feature throughout the collection, showing the designer’s grandfather’s mining number. Her spring–summer 2020 collection, Mine Gem, was a continuation of this concept, with a further look into the gemstones that are mined around the world.
Fashion Finest focuses on supporting up-and-coming designers and providing them with an affordable and professional showcasing platform during the London Fashion Week season. Fashion Finest chose to display Naoise’s Mine Gem collection at London Fashion Week spring–summer 2020. Naoise believes that Fashion Finest are doing great work: “For them to reach out to you, especially as a small Irish designer, really motivates and encourages you to continue having the passion to do what you do.” Naoise’s collaboration with Fashion Finest is testament to the fact that Irish-based designers can be internationally recognised.
Naoise has an exciting collaboration in the works with fellow Irish designer Erica Molenaar, who specialises in streetwear and whose work is currently on show in a poster ad campaign for Griffith College. She is also currently in the process of designing and making a new collection and a special collection, which will be stocked at Marion Cuddy Irish Designers Emporium.
Naoise ends the interview by noting that “as any fashion designer, I hope to succeed as a brand in the Irish fashion industry and maybe even abroad. At the very least, I hope to make collections that bring a little joy to whoever wears it. I will keep working and taking any opportunities that come my way”. Naoise’s success and growing business is testament to the fact that the fashion industry in Ireland is a place that can nurture young Irish talent despite the allure of the fashion capitals abroad.