Ciara Allen is 23 years old, from Lucan, Dublin. An NCAD alumni, her latest clothes collection has set the bar for Irish streetwear. Her groundbreaking designs can be found on her instagram page, @ciara_allen_ 

When did you first discover your love for fashion? 

Since 3rd year in secondary school I always knew I wanted to go to art college. Initially I wanted to study sculpture. However, when I was in first year of NCAD it was a core year where you got to try out a bit of each course, which is where I realised I love the structure and craft of design. I constantly made sculptures in relation to the body so was advised that fashion could be a good option for me. I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to go into the fashion course but it was a big challenge as I was unable to make anything at all and heard it was a very difficult course. However, some of my favourite artists have always been fashion designers. I love how fashion is an art which is accessible to everyone. It’s such a personalised art-form; we all wear clothes everyday, we all have pieces of clothing that makes us feel a certain way when we wear it. It’s like a form of social commentary and I knew I wanted to be a part of that. The more I learned about pattern cutting and the craft of making clothes mixed with creating your own textiles, the more I fell in love with it. 

What was the first piece you made?

 The first piece I ever made was in 2nd year of college. This was the first time we were able to properly explore with all the new techniques we had learned. We were able to put our design process into work and explore whatever themes we wanted to. Before we had made partial garments etc but this was the piece that made me think ‘oh maybe i could be good at this.’ My concept was based on anxiety and breathing. The idea of inhaling and exhaling became the driving force behind this piece. This project was also where I discovered my love for bright colours as I learned just how impactful they could be. The whole garment was transformable, a grey over-dress spilled out from the bottom of the bright orange jumper which was all held inside with some rope. The project allowed me to blend interesting concepts with the craft of fashion design. The pockets spilled out from the inside and the whole piece was over sized and engulfed the wearer. Using the clothing itself to visually represent the theme of my project. 

Who would you say are your biggest inspirations ?

 My biggest inspirations are designers like Craig Green, for his amazing conceptual work and use of silhouettes. Liam Hodges, for his graphic prints and contemporary exploration of upcycling materials and Charles Jeffrey for his bold use of colour and styling. They are all experimental, fun and thought provoking designers which is what I aspire to be. They push the boundaries and merge fashion design and wearable sculptures, whilst also creating innovative commercial pieces. More recently however I have been looking at more Irish designers such as Hope MacCaulay. Her whimsical pieces and vibrant designs make her brand so unique and exciting. All these designers inspire me to push my designs and to be a better designer. 

 Has there been any challenges or problems you have faced? 

Starting a Business right now is a difficult task especially when competing against giant fast-fashion brands. However I think the attitude towards fashion is shifting and there does seem to be a greater appreciation towards Irish Handmade work and the concept of ‘Slow Fashion’ which is really encouraging. Another thing that I have found challenging since leaving college is working alone instead of in a studio space filled with other creatives. It can be quite isolating working for yourself in a vacuum. Hopefully soon I can find another studio space with other creatives doing similar work to me. 

What are your hopes and dreams for the future ? 

On the 1st of November I will be launching my new collection on my new website. Hopefully from here I will be able to continue to slowly grow my business. My plans and dreams for the future are to get my very own studio space in which I can create from. I want to continue working on my commercial fashion lines but I also would love to do more conceptual type fashion too. I hope to eventually be able to organise a runway show here in Dublin and also get my pieces stocked in some shops here and abroad. I hope to keep learning new skills that allow me to be the best designer I can be. 

Author: Aoife Noonan

Image Credit: Ciara Allen