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Ciaran Sweeney - Hot Toddy in Fashion!! - Prepare for Inebriation!!!

Posted by Suz King on November 7, 2009 at 1:21 PM

Sweeney the New Hot Todd



Ciarán Sweeney was born in Ireland in 1971; he educated atThe National College of Art and Design, Dublin where he majored in printedtextiles.


Within a year of graduation in 1994, the former waiter, staged his first oneman show 'The Drowning of Ophelia 'in a Dublin gallery. The show received ravereviews, a packed audience and his tale began to unfold.


At the age of 26 British Vogue described Sweeney as a leading light of Irishfashion, he works in a highly labour intensive almost ancient manner. AllCiaran's pieces start with a drawing he then dyes, prints, paints andembellishes his garments and accessories with his drawings.


Sweeney works from his studio in The Liberties area of Dublin city , he workson a 7 metre table on some of the most precious fabrics and fibres from aroundthe world. He is most known for his use of 19th century silk screen textileprint methods.


Over the last 12 years Sweeney has gone on to show his work in The UnitedKingdom, Spain, Italy, France, The USA, The United Arab Emirates and 2006marked Sweeney's first show in Moscow, Russia.


In February of 2006, Sweeney exhibited in Madrid, representing Ireland in aunique show of international designers entitled 'Men in skirts' which ran inRetiro Park, Madrid and included John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier and VivienneWestwood.


In the same month was awarded a medal at The AmericanDesign Awards, California, and USA.


The list of owners of Ciarán Sweeney creations includes The President ofIreland, Madonna, Elton John, Kylie Minogue, The Corrs, Moya Brennan, Altan,Dinah Carrol, Brenda Belthyn. His corporate clients include Guinness, Smirnoff,PGA, Irish Distillers, Nokia, The Ulster Museum, and Vodafone.


He has designed ranges in fashion and home for international outlets includingHarrods, Liberty and Brown Thomas. Ciaran Sweeney also acts as Producer of theNational College of Art and Design Graduate Show annually since 2000.

To go over your resume as an Irish Designer, which event stands out themost in your mind?

“I guess The Designers Guild Awards in Los Angeles a whileback. I was the Costume designer to Consolatta Boyle. “

What was special about that?

“Being the costume designer for me was fantastic in the sensethat it let me run wild in my inhibitions and creations. I could really designclothes that didn’t have to make sense. Being nominated the Guild awards on topof that really bought home to me how much my designs relied on my creativeinstincts. Being able to enjoy your job is truly something I’m very gratefulfor.”

You seem much grounded for someone who is such a high profileddesigner?

“A lot of my friends are in jobs and unhappy in the waythings are but they can’t be changed due to financial needs. I’m very groundedand aware of what’s real in life. I’m not too caught up in the whirl wind ofcelebrity and fame. I’m more for appreciation of fine art.”

Going back a few years, “The Drowning of Ophelia” in Dublin gallery wasyour first independent one-man show. Was it than you felt you were ontosomething good following the rave reviews? Or did you have insecurities aboutgoing as an independent designer?

I was so glad to see the show received rave reviews. It wassuch a relief; your own first show is such a nerve wrecker. I remember seeingthe packed audience and thinking – oh god, I hope this’ll be ok!”

At the age of 26 British Vogue described you as a leading light ofIrish fashion – that was such a young age to be recognisedfor such a high status. What do you think makes you stand out from the rest ofthe crowd?

“I’m not sure what’s different but I do strive to be asindividualistic as I can and true to my style. I guess you could say I work ina highly labour intensive way. I’ve heard some colleagues call it almost an“ancient manner”. My pieces start with a drawing I then dye, print, paint andembellish my garments and accessories with my drawings. Its alot of work, but Ithink the more labour and the more details that are put into a piece the moreappreciation it should have.

To go from a drawing on a piece of paper to a physical creation muchgive you huge satisfaction than.

“It really does (his head tilted in thought).The end productsometimes can alter from the original drawing but it general it’s great to seea complete creation and than that to be part of a whole collection ofcreations.”

Have you ever completed a full creation that you were unhappy with?

“I have yes. But with that I would just strip it down againand alter the shape, the details such as the beadings, sowings, dye, nettingetc. It can be frustrating but that’s what designing is – it’s all about tryingnew things and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”

You taught at the college of Art, Craft and Design, Colaiste Eanna ,inRathfarnham Dublin between 1993-1999. Would you ever condiser at somestageopening a type of college yourself or training school.”Sweeney College of Artand Design”?

“Ah, I like the sound of it. (He laughs) It would definitelyperhaps be a retirement option for me I think. I’ll have to write it down(waves his diary in the air).At the moment I’m happy just designing. I do takein trainees for placements and mentoring etc. But right now my path is creatingmy visions.”

In February of 2006, you exhibited in Madrid, representing Ireland in aunique show of international designers entitled 'Men in skirts'. To representIreland must have been a privilege for you?

“Ya, it took place in Retiro Park, Madrid. I think when yourrepresenting your country it makes the collection that bit more important.There’s that bit extra pressure, but I like that. Pressure can make you moredetermined.”

Did you feel under pressure because there were so many other designerspresent being compared to you?

“It was a huge event for me as I surrounded by world knowndesigners such as John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier ,and  VivienneWestwood. These designers would have been the ones that would’ve inspired me togo on and create fashion. But I know my designs are individualistic and thatwhen you see them you know they are mine.”

Back stage at an event like that which designers would you socialiseafter with?

“I talk to everyone but I like to speak with those who havesimilar tastes in fashion to mine. I always love to speak with VivienneWestwood. She is a fantastic advocate for fashion and really stipulates howindividuality is what makes you stand out which is what I aspire to, ya know? She’san amazing person to speak to too, really friendly and down to earth.”

And Finally Ciaran what are your hopes for the future?

“To keep on creating to be honest. (Smiles)I’m really happywith how things are going in terms of creations and as a business – which inreality is important too. I’m currently working on a new collection which willbe unveiled early in the New Year”.


Check out the success ofLightwear at Trinity College Dublin which Ciarán recently produced


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