Over 200 people packed into the Irish Consulate in New York on Monday night, for a celebration of Irish fashion and art.
Fashion designer to the stars Don O’Neill from Co. Kerry, and artist of the light, Dubliner Roisin Fitzpatrick, showcased their creations in the intimate setting.
The collaboration saw the gathered crowd first enjoy Fitzpatrick’s contemporary art, which has been on exhibition in the consulate for the past two months, before a fashion show of O’Neill’s Theia collection took place.
Celebrities such as American actress Angela Bassett proudly wore a stunning black creation from Theia on the night, while many other women dressed in O’Neill’s designs.
Coming from the man who has dressed stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman and Taylor Swift, O’Neill gestured at the crowd as he told the Irish Voice, “The women here are all drop dead gorgeous.”
“What an honor as a designer, to be in the Irish Consulate of New York,” he added.
To kick start the night’s event, Fitzpatrick addressed the crowd. The Dublin-based artist explained how a near death experience inspired her artistic creation.
“A few years ago, I was very fortunate, I know it sounds crazy to say that, but I was very fortunate to have a near death experience,” the artist told the crowd.
Having previously worked at the United Nations, European Commission and European Bank, Fitzpatrick decided to create a series of contemporary artworks, the Artist of the Light® collection, after she suffered a brain aneurysm.
“The only thing that matters in life is treating everybody with respect, living a life of joy and following my passion and sharing the light with people.
“That is what I have done through this art,” the artist told the gathered crowd.
“I am constantly inspired. It’s always about tapping into the light within,” she later told the Irish Voice.
Using clear Swarovski crystal, hand sewn onto white silk canvas, Fitzpatrick has created 40 pieces to date. The intricate detail of this contemporary approach to art offers a delicate marriage of art and light.
Fitzpatrick, a Trinity College graduate, spoke at length about how Celtic history was a big source of inspiration for her individual designs, including her pieces Newgrange and IAHM Celtic Design.
Concluding her presentation, Fitzpatrick explained that she and O’Neill had discovered the similarity in their work only months prior to the exhibition.
“We are both inspired by the light,” Fitzpatrick said.
O’Neill’s collection, Theia, is named after the Greek goddess of light in Greek mythology. O’Neill, who trained as a chef, is now based in New York’s Fashion District. He told the assembled crowd about his love for his home in Kerry.
“I was born in a tiny seaside town called Ballyheigue, in Co. Kerry. Ballyheigue is a magical little town. I grew up in the shadow of a haunted castle,” he said.
“Every day there was this blinding trail of sun that would make its way around the bay. As a little boy, I imagined that it would be amazing to be able to make a dress out of the water’s reflection,” he recalled.
The fashion which followed showcased O’Neill’s Theia collection, with some pieces taking inspiration from the Book of Kells. A rare and insightful opportunity, as the designer talked the audience through the different dresses and the tireless detail and effort that is afforded to each creation.
O’Neill says it’s important to make dresses for every woman, and the different styles he offers means there is something for everyone.
“For me it’s about every woman and not that specific celebrity,” he told the Irish Voice.
“I have learned to make beautiful special evening dresses women can wear and can afford to wear.”
The New York-based designer was delighted to have his parents over from Ireland for the special occasion.
“Having Mom and Dad here was huge; they don’t get much of a chance to see what I do, because I am not at home in Ireland,” he said.
On his trips home to Ireland, the designer says he is constantly inspired by his surroundings.
“I come back with sketches and books, with drawings, photographs, there is so much to see and I am supposed to be on holidays!” he laughed.