Danielle Romeril Q&A

14.01.2014 | Fashion | BY:

London has cemeneted itself as home to some of the most interesting and talented emerging designers. Danielle Romeril is one of those names. If you didn’t hear about her eponymous label last year, you certainly will in 2014. Twin caught up with the young designer to talk fashion memories, first jobs and future collections.

Was fashion always on the cards for you?
The short answer is no. I started studying Psychology, Politics and History of Art at university. After my first year, I took my exams and decided I needed to try something else – that university experience was just too dull and vacuous, and generally an inspiration void zone. I had always had an interest in fashion and can remember at aged nine having these design competitions with my nemesis in school. Both of us would draw and colour up designs and our friends would judge them – I usually killed it. It was my amazing camo-combos of neon colours and black that did it. When I was 16, in school we had this year that they call Transition Year in Ireland, you are supposed to spend the year doing subjects less focused on academic results and more focused on what you might like to do after school, before you start into the senior cycle and take your final exams. People study subjects not typically on the curriculum, they learn to drive or they help out in the community. We had to do this tome of a project, completely self led on anything you wanted. A scary idea for most 16 year olds. In Transition Year I partied a lot so I decided to teach myself to pattern cut, from a book I bought and I designed and made a coat from scratch. It was a huge undertaking but I loved it. The purpose of the coat was to make me look old enough to get into pubs and clubs while also looking cool – it worked, I got served and an A in my project. I should have applied for a place in an art university straight from school but I didn’t have the courage. I come from an academic family and I didn’t excel in art in school so I chickened out and hence ended up in the wrong university, studying the wrong thing.

Who were your early fashion influences?
I guess as a young teenager I would have been a bit unaware of fashion in terms of the fashion system. My education came from my mother who shopped in a beautiful store in Dublin called Havana. She was wearing Yohji and Jil Sander but in a really unselfconscious way – she bought the pieces because she loved them as garments, she didn’t read the press, she didn’t care what name was on the label, she just knew what was beautiful and special. At that time I dressed as I still do now, arranging my appearance based on my gut instinct. I remember a silver puffa jacket worn with a velvet A-line mini and rubber soled, lace up platform canvas trainers that I loved, until people started shouting spaceman at me in the street! That infamous Levi’s ad and Dublin being a sort of conservative place in the mid 90’s probably didn’t help. I always stuck out a bit, I was a very headstrong teenager, if I wanted to do something, I did it. When I started to study fashion I became a bit obsessed with Rick Owens – that obsession lasted a long time. I loved his raw but beautiful fabrics and tough leathers, the tough girl attitude with the sublime drape and fabric that just swept around a woman’s curves. You can’t see any of that influence in my designs now. I have lost my desire to design tough, heavy clothes for scowly but beautiful girls. I don’t try as hard now and I think I am happier, which I think you can see in my work. Oh and how could I not mention Cristobal Balenciaga and Miuccia Prada – as a woman and as a designer.

Your debut collection launched for SS13. How have you grown as a brand and as a designer since then?
I guess when I launched I still had the concerns that permeated the Alberta Ferretti studio ringing in my ears so I was thinking about customer, age, wearability, different fabric groups – all this stuff which sort of mashed in with my own thoughts and feelings and lead to a collection that wasn’t as cohesive as it could have been. By the following season I was just doing what I wanted to do, which always works much better. The label is now stocked in 10 countries across the globe which I am proud of. I think I have learnt the same lessons that you keep re-learning throughout your education and working life as a designer: trust your gut, do what you like and the rest will follow. I collaborate with an old friend and stylist, the very talented Kieran Kilgallon, and besides bringing another angle to the collection with how we shoot it and style it, he is like my cheerleader who helps me keep focused on my gut feelings and is always telling me to never do anything I don’t want to do.

You bring a certain sophistication to street inspired designs. How would you describe your aesthetic?
This is the bit I always fail miserably at, describing my aesthetic; it seems so concrete, like I have to nail my colours to the wall and never change my mind. I also wonder if people can’t just look at what I do and judge it based on what they see, what they touch and feel. Words are so often a clumsy tool to describe visual three dimensional objects. If only I was famous, it would seem mysterious and interesting that I don’t describe my work rather that I just have a poor way with words when it comes to my own designs.

I will try though, here goes. Firstly, I like to change my mind. That is what I love about the fashion system, that one season I can be all about Voodoo and tribal influences and the next season it is bubble wrap and sticky tape. How cool is it that fashion actively encourages us to scrap everything every six months – what liberation! Secondly, the label is vibrant and youthful, the clothes are fun but with plenty of cool attitude. A Danielle Romeril girl is going to stand out. As a designer my real passion is decorative possibilities, I love fabric and surface detail, I like clothes that feel simple, almost utilitarian. I guess that is the street influence you can see. You should be able to just throw on a Danielle Romeril item with a pair of flats and go but these same garments are extraordinary up close. They are clothes that should be seen in real life, garments you want to wear.

You previously worked as a designer for Alberta Ferretti and Amanda Wakeley. Did the experience drive you to set up your own design brand?
Amanda Wakeley was my first job after my BA course, and having nearly killed myself on my graduate collection it was a nice break, basically an easy enough job that allowed me to move to London and make some money but it wasn’t what I got into fashion to do. There was an absence of passion and excitement in the studio so I left it to study for my Masters at the Royal College of Art, which was an enormously positive two years – the years that cemented in me that I would never do anything other than design again. From there I was selected to work in Alberta Ferretti’s studio in Italy and I more or less decided on the spot to go. I needed money and a job; an MA is an expensive business. It was a so-so experience – I hated living in this teeny town in the middle of nowhere in Italy and the design team was miserable but when I left I was at a loss as what to do next. I just couldn’t think of where or for who I wanted to work for. A lot of design studios like you to work in one particular way and I like to combine drawing, draping and fabric manipulation. It took me six months of indecision before I took the plunge to start up the label. Maybe I lacked courage but once I get going on something, I don’t stop. My Dad’s mantra – corny as it may be – is when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. On crappy days I say it over and over to myself.

Your collections feature a lot of lace and leather. Would you describe them as a Danielle Romeril staple or can we expect very different materials in the future?
There is no leather and almost no lace in AW14 so I guess you’ll be seeing something new. I am very excited about one fabric in particular; it has beauty, geekyness and crazy nostalgia all tied up in it.

What is your design process like? What does a typical day look like to you?
It completely varies. Firstly, you are the boss of a company before you are a designer. I know that probably sounds strange to people who think we just sketch all day but there are a lot of emails, press, stores, factories, PRs, fabric suppliers, accountants – all the sexy stuff to deal with first thing in the morning – the buck stops with me for all the serious stuff so you have to juggle a lot of balls. I start at 9, go through the day with my amazing team, I answer questions, we bounce ideas around. I aim to have a really creative work place that keeps people feeling excited and passionate, hopefully I succeed some of the time. Then I get down to design and collection development and as it comes together you see what is looking really beautiful and add similar styles or utilise a successful technique or fabric more often. So I will sketch or get on the machine and work out a new technique or collage fabrics and colours together for new styles. Sometimes in the afternoons we will do fittings, sometimes I will have a meeting. I really love to collaborate with other creative people. For SS14 I collaborated with milliner Laura Kinsella and currently I’m working on a bag collaboration. Fingers crossed for more exciting collaborations in the future.

What is it like to be a young designer in London?
It’s amazing as long as you don’t think about the money and I don’t mean the fistful of fifties being shoved through your letter box every morning.

What did it feel like to receive exhibition sponsorship from NEWGEN?
It was a pretty big moment, I guess a career highlight for me. I was just tapping away, doing my thing, building the brand and the Danielle Romeril vision. I applied and then I got to the second stage, which a lot of people get to and then I got to the third stage and then I was in front of an 18 person panel, feeling completely out of my depth and then you wait and see. A week later they send you an email and I suppose it’s like the smallest thing and the biggest thing all in one. It changes nothing – you are still working on your new collection and sorting out production but it changes everything too. This thing, that has been a dream and a massive goal, that you have been busily pretending to yourself is no big deal, just lands on you one day. It’s like fuck yeah, but then you can’t tell anyone for two weeks except your family who don’t really get it – there is nothing worse than trying to explain to someone who doesn’t get it why it is such a big deal. So myself and Kieran Kilgallon (the stylist I work with) and my team basically just patted ourselves on the back, felt smug and went to the pub to celebrate.

What can we expect from Danielle Romeril the brand in 2014?
Hopefully, to be surprised and maybe to hear the name a few more times.


Images from Danielle Romeril SS14

Photographer: Joshua Gordon
Stylist: Kieran Kilgallon
Make-up & Hair: Sarah Lanagan
Hats: A collaboration with milliner Laura Kinsella

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