Can you tell us about your farming background? There have been five generations of our family on our land and it has always been farmed, so the love of nature, animals and farming has all been inherited. My father started dairy farming from a very young age with my grandfather, but has retired from it in the last two years and is currently contract rearing.
I decided to set up my studio here because a lot of my work is inspired by nature, its colours and patterns, but also the peace and tranquillity of my environment allows my thoughts and ideas to flow more easily and naturally than in a chaotic bustling environment like a city. My daily walks in the countryside are normally the starting point of a new design concept, or an idea for a garment.
I read that you first became interested in fashion at five years old; what was that “pinch me” moment? Yes, my mother used to send me outside to go with my granddad to collect my grandmother from the local clothing factory. Normally my granddad would never let me go inside, but one day I went in and I just remember the feeling of excitement I had. I was in awe with the fact that clothes could be made and my mind became flooded with interest and possibilities.
What has been your best style investment to date? I think my best style investment has been taking the time to learn my personal style: learning what suits my body, what colours work best for me and what styles best represent my personality because this has allowed me to make more conscious decisions when shopping and to be more selective. I genuinely love my clothes and wear them repeatedly. My clothes always get more than one day out and that’s something I’m very proud of.
However, if I had to pick my “go to outfit”, it would be my kyomi linen shirt from my spring/summer collection and my Calvin Klein jeans.
What was your pathway prior to setting up your brand? Prior to setting up my own brand, I attended the Limerick School of Art and Design. During that time I did an internship with a menswear designer in Barcelona, Josep Abril. On completion of college, I did another internship in Istanbul with fashion house Ozlem Suer. There, I worked on the stand/mannequin, designing couture dresses. My designs were shown at their resort fashion show and the Paris show rooms and this gave me confidence in my abilities as a designer.
How do you describe your design style?
My design style is natural and feminine. I’m inspired by nature, classical art, traditional beauty and goddesses in mythology. I’m intrigued with the divine feminine and what that state feels like and I want the women who wear my garments to feel beautiful, relaxed and confident in what they wear. Soft yet powerful.
What is your hero piece from your collection? Oh, this is a hard question to answer! I designed this collection with flexibility, versatility and comfort in mind and I like each piece for different reasons, but if I had to pick one, I think it would be my Eirene linen jacket because there is nowhere it can’t be worn. It’s timeless and it goes with casual and dressy looks alike. It really is a wardrobe staple.
How do you practice sustainability?
Creating timeless, flexible, versatile garments that can be worn over and over again regardless of what trends are in fashion is a big part of my decision making in the design process. I want to create a world where people consume less and better rather than more. I’m hoping that my efforts will help reduce waste in the fashion industry.
80% of the collection is made up of natural biodegradable materials, such as linen, cotton and silk. Not only is this better for the environment, but also for our skin. Another aspect of sustainability in our brand is our small production. We produce a limited amount of garments and I use waste fabrics to make outfits for myself and my sisters.
I don’t think I will ever achieve a fully sustainable brand, but reducing waste and protecting the environment as much as I possibly can and being conscious about the effect my practices have on nature and the environment is very important to me. Awareness is key.
You use a lot of white in your collection; what are your top tips for keeping your garments looking crisp? Pre-treating stains is one way of making sure your whites stay white. One way I pre-treat is by mixing a spoonful of detergent with a shot of warm water and placing it on the stain. Then I gently rub the material together where the stain is. Another useful tip is if your garment is looking grey or yellowish, pre-soak it in hot water with two cups of baking soda for a couple of hours and wash with an enzyme-rich detergent in the washing machine.
I think, however, with garments like mine that are a higher price point, hand washing the garment individually works really well.
What celebrity would you love to see wearing Kelly O’Rourke? Actress Emma Watson, because I think she is a great example of a woman who is soft yet powerful and someone who embraces their femininity. I also see her as a great role model.
What has been your greatest fashion regret? Probably buying and wearing something even though I knew I wasn’t comfortable in it.
To learn more visit kellyorourke.com