Zoe Carol – Irish Fashion Designer1


This year, 2015, the Irish Government’s Design & Crafts Council www.dccoi.ie have established an action plan, The Year of Irish Design, to promote all major Irish creative design disciplines including our love, Fashion. Young Irish designers no longer follow trends set in the major fashion capitals of Europe, they are showcasing important cultural and creative developments in Irish society and are proving that, as creative, they are amongst the best in the world.

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One exciting Irish fashion designer is Dublin, Ireland, based Zoe Carol Wong and her label Zoe Carol. In the last three years her dedication to her craft has enabled her to develop fresh looks that are not only on trend but trend setting. We recently had the chance to interview Zoe about the excitement of being involved in the Dublin design scene and discussed what she thinks Irish fashion design has to offer.

Hi Zoe, what does Ireland have to offer you and other young designers?

“Irish fashion is young, not only in terms of the people involved but the maturity of the industry is young, it’s still in development”. Unlike other fashion cities, Irish “style is a melting pot” and is still forming, and therefore the designer can “carve out designs based on what they see”.

Seeing as its The Year of Irish Design 2015 has this benefited you in anyway?

“Yes, the spotlight is on designers that otherwise would have not been seen. It’s given a place of belonging for other designers including myself. It’s nice to belong to this group and realise you’re not alone and that other people go through the same problems of starting and running their own label. Support and belonging is what is benefiting me via the Year of Irish Design.”

Are there any particular organisations that have helped you?

“Fashion design isn’t really seen as a defined art or craft, we the fashion designers can often wonder where we belong in this mix. The Craft Council has been great in clarifying this and giving me support with my brand”.

Should there be more focus given to fashion design in Ireland?

“There needs to be more focus on fashion design in particular as textiles and jewellery have dominated in Ireland. Fashion is such a fast paced scene and is ever changing that there needs to be more financial support [government grants] and marketing support to help market yourself.”

How hard is it to create and expand a young label such as your own?

“I do everything myself. From design, contracting, fittings, labelling, packaging; I was and am the one doing it all. I have to design to what I can manage in a time frame, but I’ve never been an avant-garde designer so this wasn’t a hindrance for me. Instead of having thirty looks you may only have twelve in a season so you need to organise and be realistic with your own time frame.”

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Zoe has aspirations to move to an even bigger studio as her label is continuing to expand.

“I have to start thinking about getting more streamlined in the production process…it’s a very exciting time for me as there is a lot of things happening right now.”

What can you and other Irish designers bring to the world of fashion?

“Mentoring. We need to foster and mentor the younger designers coming into the industry. Even though we may still have our own mentors we need to mentor the younger ones coming up in the ranks. I’ve a good mentor system behind me, when I first started out I was naïve. Naïve in thinking I could do it all on my own, you need to admit you need help. Mentoring should help you in all areas, both in industry networking and support.”

Did you find it hard to find your own mentors to begin with?

“Not really, http://weareislanders.com/ were my first mentors. I was dropped into the Dublin scene and they showed me what was happening. They asked if I wanted to be a part of it, I grabbed hold of that opportunity. Also mentors came from friends in other areas of design [product design and architecture]. The Craft Council and the Dublin Local Enterprise Board were also of great help. It’s easier to become established in Dublin as a designer but you need a good team behind you.”

What do you see as the most important things for you Zoe Carol and your brand?

“I’m informed by trends but not trend driven. Zoe Carol is a classical design for an intelligent and elegant woman.”

What are your major influences?

“Whenever I get stuck I always think, What would Céline do? www.celine.com She is a huge influence on me as well as Dries van Noten www.driesvannoten.be. Van Noten uses a lot of patterns in his work and I don’t, so he inspires me not to be afraid of pattern.”

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Where do you go for inspiration?

“I go back in time! There are also a lot of geographical influences which probably come from my scientific background. My Spring/Summer ’15 collection was inspired by The Lovings (Richard and Mildred Loving), an interracial couple in Middle America in the 1960s who were ostracised from Virgina as a result of their State’s anti-miscegenation statutes criminalizing inter racial marriage. The former Life photographer Grey Villet photographed the Lovings for TIME magazine and my season was influenced by his pictures.

© Estate of Grey Villet
And finally, what is your design process?

“Panic! Even though I always panic I am always very prepared. I search online for books, look at TIME magazine and National Geographic. I keep my eyes open, if I’m travelling and I see someone with an interesting detail I’ll take a snap of that for inspiration.”

Thanks very much for your time Zoe.

Zoe is a hard working Irish fashion designer. Her commitment to her passion and art is inspiring. Not only are her pieces beautiful but her brand has meaning, the way all art should be. We appreciate her positive attitude and understanding of what is needed to grow our indigenous fashion industry. These designers, like all of us need to have a sense of belonging and need recognition. Zoe deserves recognition, we love Zoe, she is great!

Visit http://zoecarol.com/

Ragsbox Fashion Contributor
Conaill O Dwyer