Irish Designer Sinead O'Dwyer on Bringing Inclusivity to London Fashion Week
“When you think of luxury fashion, it’s the most contemporary form of garment making, so it feels very strange to ignore the majority of people.”
London Fashion Week‘s Spring/Summer 2023 showcase has officially been and gone and unsurprisingly, there wasn’t a great deal of diversity on display. While the low-rise trend seems to be going nowhere fast, the vast majority of runways featured sample-size models with an occasional “plus-size” silhouette that came very few and far between. There’s one designer, however, who made a case for doing the polar opposite, with a runway that showcased countless different body types, heights and ethnicities alongside multiple disabled models. A fashion week first, this season at least.
Dublin-born Sinead O’Dwyer began her fashion career in 2018 when she graduated from the Royal College of Art with a critically-acclaimed collection and has since been life-casting real bodies to create her faithful works. Her SS23 collection offered a masterful display of inclusivity in all senses of the word, using motifs of dildos, buttplugs and cellos, drawing inspiration from goth rock and grunge and feelings of teenage angst and recklessness.
O’Dwyer’s SS23 showcase also debuted a new style of shirt, one made specifically to complement a natural, bigger bust. It feels like one of the first times that fashion has been constructed to fit one’s body, after years and years of bodies trying to fit into fashion and for that reason, the designer’s LFW offering stuck with us more than most.
“When you think of luxury fashion, it’s the most contemporary form of garment making, so it feels very strange to ignore the majority of people,” the designer tells Hypebae. We caught up with O’Dwyer to find out more about the inspiration behind her LFW showcase, the casting process for her runway debut and why inclusivity sits at the heart of everything she does.
Read on for our full interview with Sinead O’Dwyer and while you’re here, check out her LFW showcase in full.
What can you tell us about the inspiration behind this season’s showcase?
I started thinking about my mother, she’s a cellist (and the person responsible for the cello in the show’s music) and I have this memory of her from when I was a child, playing this concerto. I remember her being a really emotional player and I’ve always found that really striking, even as a child. I was thinking about my own experiences of playing the cello and going to summer camps. I thought about the intensity of playing that sort of music in combination with how you feel at that moment in time. For me, it’s always been about that tension between something formal and something more emotional.
Tell us a bit about the casting process for the show, what do you look for?
I worked with [casting director] Emma Matelll and a lot of what she loves is street casting people. When we work together, she has more full reign in a way to cast pretty much anyone and that’s really fun. However, I also have to be really mindful of measurements. This week, I was writing down the measurements of everyone that came in and choosing the garments based on that. It became a whole new process for me. Being able to come in beforehand and look at the measurements before anything else allowed me to pick the few garments I could try. For me, casting is about interesting characters, that’s really important to me, and to be able to tell a story.
Definitely. So what is it you want people to feel when they wear your designs, what’s the aim?
I want people to feel really strong and really comfortable and like they can stand up straight and tall.
Finally, it’s no secret that your SS23 runway has been more inclusive than most. Why is that important to you?
It’s the most important thing. When you think of luxury fashion, it’s the most contemporary form of garment making, so it feels very strange to ignore the majority of people. That’s weird. You wouldn’t do that with fine art, you wouldn’t do that with music. So why with clothing? We know why it’s possible, but why is it still so widely accepted?