Today’s Vintage Musings come from West Cork based Irish designer Alice Halliday. Talented, creative and beautiful (inside and out), Alice is someone that you will meet once and never forget. Her designs are a perfect reflection of herself: etherial, feminine, delicate and utterly dreamy. I first met Alice a few years back through Le Chat Noir Vintage Events. I was captivated by her charm and vision back then and I continue to be so today. I always leave any encounter with her determined to be more ladylike in my dress and demeanor. Of course I fail miserably. There’s only one Alice Halliday. Here she chats Barbies, 70s and The Sound of Music…
Irene: Alice, you specialise in creating beautiful, unique handmade fashion and accessories, with a distinctly elegant and whimsical feel. When did you first take an interest in design and style?
Alice: Thank you! I was 9 years old when I decided I wanted to become a fashion designer. I come from a very creative family of artists, we grew up doing lots of art and craft. With my granny, mum and aunties all talented seamstresses, I think it is just in my blood.
I: It looks like you were predestined to follow this path so. Who was your biggest influence growing up?
A: It was a combination of women; my late granny Isobel, I used to play dress up from her wardrobe, ottomans and drawers filled with vintage pieces and ones she had handmade… My mother Claire, who is a fine artist. I picked up her ‘make do and mend’ attitude and she taught me how to make clothes for my Barbies. And my auntie Sukey, an applique artist, used to make fashion figures and cut out dolls with me.
I: Wow, that’s an amazing pool of talent to grow up around. Alice, I first met you at a Le Chat Noir Vintage event and still regularly encounter you on the Vintage scene as well as other Irish design events. Vintage style has clearly influenced your design process. What is it about the past that captures your imagination?
A: I think there is just so much ladylike elegance in vintage design. The past seems so much more romantic then the present- thanks to Hollywood! I find it really inspiring to look back at all those iconic women and see how their style influences modern design. I love garments with a history behind them, they tell a story.
I: There has been a distinct nod to the ‘70s in your previous work. What is it about this era specifically that appeals to you?
A: I’ve loved the 70s for as long as I can remember, I guess because it’s when my mother grew up… I have very fond memories of playing with her old Barbies, they were dressed in clothes from that era, and I found them so inspiring. I love the rich colours, mix of prints and particularly bohemian 70s style, it’s so feminine and ethereal.
I: If you could dress one lady from any time in history, who would it be?
A: Although very recent history, I’m going to say Jessica Stam. I first discovered her on the pages of Vogue during my college days. She is simply stunning, with those amazing feline eyes. She’s a timeless beauty, her look suits all eras… I was right next to her backstage when working at the Julien MacDonald A/W show in 2008, she smiled at me but I was so in awe of her and too star struck to even speak. She wore a special dress that I helped bead and hand finish, on the catwalk, but I’d love to meet her properly and design something amazing for her to wear in a shoot or on the red carpet.
I: You are also greatly influenced by film and music. Tell us a little bit about this and how it translates into your work.
A: My all time favorite is ‘The Sound of Music’ , such an amazing film, Julie Andrews has been hugely inspiring to me. The children’s play clothes made from curtains definitely influenced my work big time, and got me into the idea of working with reclaimed textiles! Music helps me to feel inspired and relaxed while creating, during the designing/making of my graduate collection entitled ‘Soul Salvation’, I constantly listened to the Florence + The Machine album ‘Lungs’ …and look what happened, she ended up wearing the cape from that collection!
I: Absolutely amazing. I’m sure your musical choices are carefully considered when designing now … listen to them and they will wear it! As your collection grows, can you still make everything yourself? How does the demand effect the production?
A: I don’t think it’s physically possible. I love making everything myself but it’s so time consuming, and yes obviously the more demand the harder it is to reach targets without any help… and especially being a fulltime mummy too! I really do need to start building a team, so if there are any interested interns, skilled in sewing nearby, please get in touch!
I: That would be an incredible opportunity for someone. I just wish I had the talent! You are a Cork lady, based in Skibbereen – have your surroundings persuaded your designs?
A:Yes definitely, I feel at home in the beautiful West Cork countryside. It’s so wild and magical. Nature has always been a huge inspiration to me, I spent my childhood exploring it, and it has strongly influenced my work.
I: It’s only 3 years since you won ‘Cork Fashion Week Designer of The Year’ for your Spring Summer 2012 collection ‘Tea With Tamara’. With CFW 14 underway now, what are your thoughts on the award and how it might impact the career of a designer?
A: I was so honored to win that award! I think it really is a great platform for young designers to showcase their work and get their names out there. The winner receives a great deal of publicity and it can definitely kickstart a career. I’ve just found out I’m nominated for the ‘Hi Magazine Designer of The Year 2014’, just to be included in the nominees is a great honor!
I: Congratulations! Another brilliant achievement. Your Spring Summer collection takes inspiration from Audrey Hepburn and the film ‘The Secret Garden’ yet remains so recognisable as Alice Halliday. What elements are constants in your designs and pieces? Do you have a specific lady in mind when you design?
A: My signature style is timeless, a mix of vintage romance, bohemian elegance and contemporary class. I use vintage materials as much as possible but transform them with elements of modern design. All my pieces are one of a kind, but I can replicate designs in different fabrics. Minimalistic shapes and intricate embellishments feature throughout my collections.
I get inspired by icons such as Audrey, but I don’t have a specific lady in mind when designing. I want my designs to be accessible to all sorts of women, who just really appreciate what I do. Although my own style definitely has a strong influence, I often want to keep pieces for myself!
I: I would too. They really are such an extension of yourself. Once again you have combined old world elegance with soft ethereal romance to create a stunning collection. You have generously shared your beautiful behind the scenes video of your SS15 lookbook shoot with us. Tell us about ‘A Secret Garden’ and the team involved.
A: Well, when rising star, Irish actress Emma Eliza Regan first got in touch with me, with the idea of collaborating on an ethereal, Audrey Hepburn styled shoot, I jumped at the idea. I based the collection around her brief but brought in the added influence of the film ‘Secret Garden’ (another childhood favorite) so I decided to go for quite a childlike innocent feel, reminiscent of the past, but still timeless.
Seán Creagh of Ambition films, captured the shoot beautifully on film. I then got Emmet O’Brien & Ross Carey of Thinking Cog Productions on board to edit it, I had seen some of their work and knew they would do a great job.
I often work with my dear friend Rosa O, as she is a very skilled vintage hair & makeup stylist, she was naturally my first choice. I had also previously worked with the very talented Kate Bean Photography, and felt it was right up her street with natural light and a fairytale setting. I chose the song ‘Golden Hour’ by Californian band Ghost Town Jenny, as I feel it is the perfect accompaniment. Lead vocalist Kim Kylland is a friend of mine, who shares similar inspirations to me. We strongly admire each others work, so it feels great supporting each other. The location we used is literally ‘a secret’ but we are so grateful to the lovely owners for allowing us to shoot on such gorgeous grounds.
I: Quite the dream team – and it shows! When will the collection be available and from where?
A: The collection is available now online on my Etsy store: etsy.com/shop/alicehalliday …I’m delighted that one of the pieces has already sold! The white floral mini dress sold for €180, during the sneak preview of my collection, at my Cork stockist, beautiful boutique Brocade & Lime. This style of dress can be made to order through my Etsy store, available in a range of different prints.
I: No doubt the rest of the collection will be snapped up also. I am in love with it all! So what does the remainder of 2014 hold for Alice Halliday?
A: I’ve got some creative shoots coming up, a few commissions and I’m planning on getting started on my first bridal collection. Very excited to soon be adding my first international stockist to the list… Wall & Jones, 340 Hackney Road, London! And of course many a magical moment will be spent my beautiful 2 yr old son Naythan!
I: Sounds magical…
Thanks so much to Alice for sharing her Vintage Musings and her giving us the first viewing of her video: A Secret Garden.
You can vote for Alice by emailing ‘Hi’s Fashion Designer of the Year 2014 – Alice Halliday’ to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Secret Garden credits:
- Design & Styling: Alice Halliday alicehalliday.com
- Model: Emma Eliza Regan imdb.com/name/nm2833806/
- Photography: Kate Bean Photography katebeanphotography.com
- Hair and makeup: Rosa O rosa-o.squarespace.com
- Filming: Sean Creagh, Ambition Films ambitionfilmsireland.com/
- Film assistant: Dharminder Singh Kang
- Editing: Emmet O’Brien & Ross Carey, Thinking Cog Productions facebook.com/thinkingcog
- Music: Ghost Town Jenny ghosttownjenny.com