Ciara Monahan is a womenswear and accessories designer from England. She specializes in digital print, laser-cut Perspex embellishment and her signature use of “blindingly bright” colours. Her collection will be presented during the Fashion Shows.
Hello Ciara! Where are you based?
Above a bustling market street in Brixton, London.
What inspires you in general?
My surroundings, just noticing life's little quirks. I got really excited that the colours and patterns on my shoes matched an unusual looking worm that was just chilling out on the pavement one morning. There's inspiration in pretty much everything if you keep your eyes open to it.
What place or city do you find inspiring?
London is such a hub of inspiration. I'm lucky to live here, you only have to take a few steps out of the door and inspiration will hit you in the face. Pretty much literally.
What is it like to be a young designer in your city/country?
Challenging, but at the same time extremely exciting. There's so much strong competition that sometimes it's hard to get noticed or get that big break, but London is one of those rare magical places where anything can happen. I've had so many wonderfully amazing opportunities for my business just pop up from bumping into people in the street, going to parties, attending lectures or just working at part time bar job. It's like a 24/7 networking hub.
What attracts you about the FASHIONCLASH platform?
It's so diverse and seems like a great way to showcase my designs on an international spectrum.
What is it about kitsch that you find inspiring?
The nostalgic hold it has on everyone on. It's such a playful aesthetic and despite it being something that is generally described as 'tacky', a very large majority of people can't help but feel some kind of attraction towards it. I find that fascinating!
What is the concept behind your latest collection?
I was inspired by the scenes of a Gnome being taken around the world and having photos taken at certain landmarks in the film Amélie. I based the collection on a garden gnome who was bored of everyday life and went travelling around the world collecting tacky souvenirs along the way. My designs showcased his final stop in paradise, which was based on a trip I took to Bali a few years ago, as well as print ideas from typically kitsch retro postcards.
Describe your collection in three words.
Bright. Kitsch. Playful.
Did you always want to work in the field of fashion?
Nope, when I was younger I actually had my heart set on being a vet! I fell into fashion when I started studying Textiles at high school and experimenting with my style. I really found myself through experimenting with a mad mix of bold colours, prints and accessories. I started spending time in other lessons doodling designs for classmates, whilst at home I was addicted to working on copious scrapbooks of collages of images and styles.
Do you remember the first piece you designed?
Oh yes, I think it was a very typically tacky 90s style two-tone burgundy outfit; flared trousers and a halter-neck top with diamante embellishment. VERY different to anything I design now! I was such a 90s kid, still am at heart!
Do you have a muse? If yes, who is it and why?
Yes, Iris Apfel. She's a little gem, so true to her own style and is the ultimate queen of colour. What kind of feeling do you want to transfer with your latest collection/creation? I want to make people smile! When you look at most catwalk shows these days there just seems to be a sea of serious, judging faces. I want people to see my collection and can't help but smile, laugh and enjoy the frivolity my designs and the whole show experience.
What is on your playlist when you are working?
It chops and changes with my mood! I usually just have the radio blaring in the background. I’m addicted to BBC Radio 6, as I’m always discovering great new stuff on there. When I'm making garments I’ll usually start with a range of funk and soul tracks, but this inevitably ends up morphing into an 80’s playlist…can’t help but have a good dance while I’m making.
Who is your favourite fashion designer?
This is something that changes each season! But generally I am quite in love with Meadham Kirchhoff. Each collection is so playful and full of narrative. What is the latest thing you bought for yourself? Some turquoise and purple hair dye! I love to experiment with colour beyond clothes.
What is your favourite fairy tale and why?
I'm not sure if it counts as a fairy tale but it has to be 'The Rainbow Fish'. I was obsessed with this story as a kid, I wasn't all that fussed about princesses being rescued. This fish however was made up of these beautiful colours and glittery fins. In the story it gives away it's glittery fins to make other fish happy. I think I've subconsciously set my life by this book; showing my colourful designs is like giving away a piece of glittery fin to each person who sees it.
What made you smile today?
My friend accidentally shrinking her flatmates jumper in the wash and describing how she had to spend ages stretching it out. Her flatmate turned up wearing it and despite it being two sizes smaller she actually doesn't seem to notice.
What is your definition of style?
Dressing for yourself, not for others. Style is essentially an extension of your personality and interests.
What has been the greatest experience in your ‘fashion’ career so far?
The first time I saw my collection go down a catwalk. I still can't compare that feeling to anything else!
What can we expect from you in the future?
A global empire! I'm joking. That would be the dream of course, but I'm looking to expand my label, create more colourful collections. I've started to focus mainly on jewellery and accessories but want to branch back out into garments again in the near future and start selling internationally. That, and I want to make the circle the next 'cool' shape, triangles have had the limelight for too long!
Pictures: Ciara MonahanCiara’s website: www.ciaramonahan.com