‘Who Run The World? Who Run The World? Who run this Mutha …?’ So asks Beyonce, quite insistantly and on quite a number of occasions over a three minute and 55 second period. ‘Guuurls‘ she offers, by way of explanation. Of course; we knew this. I have the kick-ass Mama, rockin’ sisters (blood and otherwise) and zillion other fabulous female influences to prove it.
And did you ever wonder which girls specifically she was referring to? No? Ok, just me so. Well actually it’s less ‘wonder’ and more ‘acknowledge knowingly’ as I sing and shake along. ‘Girls’ (insert body dip); ‘Girls’ (insert hip flick). Girls! that work their asses off; Girls! that have ideas; Girls! that make things happen. Girls! that supports their fellow females both fiercely and prolifically. More specifically, Girls! such as the Emer O’Sullivans of this world: Co-owner of Lockdown Models, Director of Cork Fashion Week, Producer of Miss Universe Cork, Blogger at Irish Fashaholic, Presenter, etc., etc., etc. And, to be fair, she happens to be shit-hot at all of the above to-boot. Here she chats balance, sisterhood, Vintage, style and over-sharing.
Irene: Emer, you have one of those terribly 21st Century CVs, which brings together years of involvement in the fashion world, savvy experience from the corporate world as well as the essential blog and online profile. How would you describe your work life?
Emer: Diverse and interesting I guess. I enjoy a good challenge and am always looking at what I could be doing to improve and progress things, whatever I’m working at. I have always surrounded myself with hard workers and creative people and I like to ensure I have a little tribe of mentors around that I can always draw experience and inspiration from whatever job I’m working on. I think we’re always learning – from the day we are born to the day we check out, so for me, it’s about being around people I can learn from and learn with.
I: Very sound thinking, And of course you have so many learning from you within your agency. Having modeled yourself for years, how do you approach management? What are some of the highs that you hope your models can achieve and what are the lows that you are anxious they avoid?
E: My wish for any model is that they get the best opportunities out there during their time modelling, not just for financial benefit but for personal development and to open doors in other areas for future careers for them. We have models who have successfully moved to work in the UK, appeared on UK TV and many models in Ireland who used modelling with us to support themselves through college and are now Doctors, Solicitors, Nurses, Teachers…a really inspirational bunch of women!
The lows in modelling one would think would traditionally have been to protect your models from drink and drugs as is often perceived in the media. But the real low for us is trying to protect them from unhealthy body image and criticism from other women. We represent models from a size 8 right up to a size 16 (we would represent larger if we could find women confident enough to model with a larger size) and we represent all ages up to 60 years of age. However, I am saddened by how critical the public are of healthy, naturally slim girls and how at some events I have heard women berate beautiful, healthy size 10 models for being ‘too skinny’. I think the weight debate needs to stop and we shouldn’t judge naturally thin, healthy women just as it isn’t acceptable for us to comment on larger women. ‘Real women’ come in all shapes and sizes so I look forward to the day when we encourage each other as women of all shapes, sizes and colours. But I fear we have a long way to go yet in our industry!
I: Hear, hear! It’s a pretty confusing contradiction that I too witness all the time and find to be pretty offensive. Now, surely with such fabulous elements to your work life, the lines of work and play must get blurred – how do you balance the two and is this something you’re more conscious of with the impending arrival?
E: Some weeks can be crazy for sure, especially around big events such as Mercedes-Benz Cork Fashion Week but I just feel so lucky to be doing so many jobs that I love and it doesn’t really feel like work as I’m working with good friends and people I admire in all cases. So it just feels natural. I would prefer a night out presenting or producing a fashion show over a cup of tea and Coronation Street any day. I’m only hoping my little unborn baby won’t mind coming around with me in a sling and fitting in!
I: Hey, you can never start them too young … and just think of the stylish collection of slings you can rock! Speaking of your style, let’s talk fashion and Vintage… You introduced Vintage to Cork Fashion Week via the wonderfully creative Le Chat Noir duo and their inimitable style of events. Which came first, the desire to include Vintage or your relationship with Jill & Leona?
E: Before we met Jill and Leona, my business partner Vivienne McCarthy and I had made friends with an inspirational business woman in Cork, Breda Casey who opened Miss Daisy Blue, one of the most amazing vintage stores in the English Market, Cork. Her store successfully rivals any of the top vintage stores in London and New York and it was Breda that really educated us about the beauty, history and importance of vintage fashion. Breda has linked us in with a whole new network of really creative people in fashion in Ireland and Jill and Leona were two of these. Jill & Leona at Le Chat Noir reminded Viv & I so much of ourselves, they were two passionate young businesswomen juggling lots of different projects and jobs all to ultimately create something that they believed in strongly and that hadn’t been done before. Partnering with them the last two years for Mercedes-Benz Cork Fashion Week has been such a pleasure and of course having your good self down to host the events each year too – the Dream Team if I may say so myself
I: Ha! You’re too kind. Sure I was only delighted to spend time in the aforementioned company and hang on your collective coattails for a night or two. Speaking of Vintage, can you give us a little insight into your own favourite Vintage pieces – what are they and where were they bought?
E: This is a lime green 1960s maternity dress I wore to my cousins wedding in Limerick recently. I bought it from Breda in Miss Daisy Blue. I found maternity clothes on the high street to be very basic and dull so the minute I told Breda I was pregnant, she dived into her archive of garments and produced some amazing original maternity pieces. I love this as it has lots of room for expansion!
And here’s another peek from Emer’s maternity wardrobe – this time a full length vintage maxi from Miss Daisy Blue that I have worn heaps throughout her pregnancy:
My wedding dress when I married my hubby Timmy on New Years Eve 2012 was also vintage. I bought it in Bella Bleu Bridal Boutique. I wanted a vintage wedding dress as I wasn’t into the traditional style dresses and this was the only shop I went to and second dress I tried on – and I was done. I couldn’t have been happier. Its from New Orleans and dates back to the 1970s.
Over the past three years I have built up a really special wardrobe of vintage clothing from Miss Daisy Blue from casual wear right up to beautiful dresses to wear to events.
I: Wow – what a stunning, happy bride! Fab photos do have. When did you first become interested in Vintage and what peaked your initial interest? When I first met Breda. I love anything with a story and history. So when I found beautifully crafted clothing that had just this, I found my true passion in fashion.
I: And did you have a style icon growing up? What are your early memories of style and fashion? I was the tallest, lankiest, uncoolest teen ever. I didn’t have a clue about fashion until I started modelling at age 17. However, I always had an appreciation for beautiful things. I used love watching my Mum, Eilish, getting dressed to go out with my Dad, Anthony, putting on her colourful blouses in the 80s and 90s and matching her shoes & handbags and putting on her clip-on earrings. Even the smell of her Chloe perfume still takes me back. She is still one of the most stylish women I know so I guess for me, fashion started at home.
I: The best educations generally do! Now I’m always waxing lyrical about the continual supportiveness of the Vintage and craft traders in the People’s Republic; of course it would be easy to put it down to my limited exposure to the day to day running of things but I can’t help believing you guys really are on to a special thing. What are your thoughts on it all? Is it all for show?!
E: One thing that thrived in Cork during the recession years of the past decade are Independent Boutiques. I think this is down to the fact that Cork women LOVE to dress up and invest in well made garments. Vintage shopping is another specialist area and has a huge following here. Cork is a very creative, artistic city and it’s inhabitants dress in a similar way. I have worn vintage garments in some towns in Ireland and received very funny comments or looks, however in Cork if I wear vintage, I will have women admire the clothes and ask where I got them. So there’s just something great about the scene here in fashion, music, the arts in general, where we are quite open minded, curious and passionate about all things with history and a creative edge.
I: What are some of the most exciting or inspiring collaborations that you are either involved in directly or excited about the outcomes from in the coming months?
E: My Irish Fashaholic blog is only 9 months old and has taken off more than I could have wished for. Through the events I cover and people I meet with it, I have some really interesting projects in the pipeline for Autumn/Winter. As a result, I have also started contributing to our local paper The Evening Echo and am thoroughly enjoying the bookings that are coming in to host fashion shows and events. My big focus at present with Lockdown is producing and running Mercedes-Benz Cork Fashion Week with Vivienne, which kicks off on October 3rd. And last but certainly not least, I am most excited about the arrival of my first baby in a short few weeks time, all going well. I have been blessed with a really enjoyable pregnancy so I’m thinking positive about the labour and welcoming our new daughter into our lives this Summer, I can’t wait to embrace motherhood and all the challenges it will offer.
I: Finally, if you could tell your 10-year-old self one thing that you wish she would listen to, what would it be?
E: Don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t worry that you’re an awkward, nerdy teenager, keep studying, it’s ok to be different. Everything always works out in the end. I could go on…..
I: Well said! Right, before we let you go – and in the name of investigative journalism – let’s have a little quick fire to make sure we get the full Emer picture.
Cravings: myth or truth? Truth – for me now anyway!
Best hangover cure… A mojito
Gogglebox or One Born Every minute? Gogglebox
Best song for a roll in the hay… Any Maxwell song
The one thing you swear you won’t do as a parent but in truth are likely to from day one… I really don’t want pictures of my baby online, I’d hate if my parents had littered the internet with embarassing pictures of me should the internet have existed back then. So I hope I wont let oxitocin take over and make me all mushy with endless embarassing pictures of my baby online. I’d like to savour the experience of her birth and first few years with our families.
Most memorable exercise fad… Vibrating plates. I thought if I went to classes and stood on them that I would miraculously tone up, no effort necessary. Epic fail.
Foolproof confidence booster… Call my gay friends. They boost me up everytime
What ‘style’ means to you in three words… Individuality, character, expression.
The sign of a true pal is… they tell you the things nobody else is brave enough to tell you – that you often don’t want to hear. My friends have promised me Moet to the hospital the day after I deliver. Please don’t tell Social Services. But I think that sums up how fabulous they are.
Thanks so much to Emer for being a super star and sending her the most wonderful of wishes for the arrival of her junior star very soon. Keep up to date with all things Emer and style at Irish Fashaholic.
‘Strong enough to bear the children, then get back to bui’ness’ - word.
x Irene x