“I never thought I was a home bird, but I kept missing things in my family’s lives, missing a lot of things at home,” says designer Colin Horgan, who after nearly five years in London has returned home to his native Kerry, and to a new phase in his creative career.
Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2017 with an MA in fashion, following a degree in NCAD three years earlier, Horgan has become known for show-stopping pieces after Lady Gaga was photographed wearing his filmy black trousers from his RCA graduate collection at the Toronto Film Festival. Back then he was one of The Irish Times “Ones to Watch” in fashion, with a style suited to the stage. “It was all about making noise back then, pushing the boundaries, and you had to fight for notice and recognition,” he recalls. “It was a very different time in fashion.”
Over time, despite becoming associated with extravagant stage wear and making bespoke outfits for celebrities and stars, the impetus began to fade. “I realised I had become pigeonholed and I needed to pause [and take stock], as I felt smothered.” Mentored with advice in design and sales that was often contradictory, when Covid hit, he returned to Ireland, took a holiday house near a beach for a year, and started to question his whole approach to fashion.
That time has now paid off. “I needed to know what I was trying to say with my clothes. I was trying to escape from the stage formula and not thinking about letting fabric tell the story, and not thinking about the woman wearing my clothes. I realised I didn’t have to keep adding more, I don’t need everything. I am still learning,”, he says, now pleased to have a “serene” working space in Tralee painted black and softened with plants everywhere.
He has delved into his archive for his new collection, called Affinity Eleven, which takes a novel approach to denim alongside more body conscious wrapping. Some items recall his impressive NCAD graduate work. Inventive cutting and topstitching, for example, have brought a new look to conventional bomber jackets and trousers. “The energy is more focused and I hope the pieces are more accessible. I try to mix soft and hard and whereas before my pieces were hard, loud and noisy, maybe I am now getting a little more romantic.”
Twenty-five pieces — trousers (he anticipated the trend for flares five years ago), coats, wrap and high neck tops, corsets, jackets and skirts — producing 11 looks make up the collection, fashioned from waxy denim, wool, nylon, satin, taffeta and elements of soft shell. Pieces are now stocked by three boutiques: Macbees in Killarney (he is delighted to have one in his native Kerry), Havana in Donnybrook and Emporium Kalu in Naas.
According to metaverse expert and founder of virtual showroom SKMMP Aileen Carville, who is currently mentoring him, “his design approach is very individual, he has his own vision and is slightly ahead of the curve with subcultural influences. But he listens. I showed his collection to buyers and he took the feedback on board. He has huge potential and his work is certainly getting more commercial.”
Photographs: Ryan Rivers; production and models: Not Anothr Intl; models Ami Jackson, Cayla Hennebry, Caoilainn O Reilly, Camilla Anele