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Class of 2015: BA (Hons) Fashion Contour talk rodeo girls and mastectomy lingerie

Sian O’Neill, BA (Hons) Fashion Contour
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Published date
20 May 2015

As part of our Class of 2015 blog posts we spoke to Sian O’Neill and Ellen Goldie who are just about to graduate from BA (Hons) Fashion Contour.

These lingerie designers have conjured up two very different collections, one inspired by the working girls of Americana, and the other providing beautiful lingerie for women who have undergone mastectomies.

Their work will be part of the BA15 exhibition and Sian will also be showing a piece in the BA15 Runway Show.

Despite taking very different starting points, it’s clear that there is a vision that these two designers share: lingerie is about women and identity. We found out more…

LCF News: What inspires you?

Sian O’Neill: Bold women – Stevie Nicks, Lady Gaga, Donatella Versace, Amy Winehouse, Carine Roitfeld, Hilary Clinton, Anna Dello Russo, the list goes on… My ultimate muse is Cher. I can’t explain it, I just love her.

Ellen Goldie: London is such an inspirational place to live but most of all I would say errors or gaps. Where something is lacking there is room for growth and innovation and that excites me. In terms of a muse, it would be women in general.

LCF News: Sian, we hear your final collection plays on a fantasy of working girls in America – sounds like they could be the kind of bold women you’re inspired by?

Sian O'Neill, BA (Hons) Fashion Contour

Sian O’Neill, BA (Hons) Fashion Contour

SON: Yes, it’s a look back at the working girls of America. The diner mama, the rodeo queen, the Vegas showgirl, the roller waitress. I certainly pictured these women as strong characters and wanted my garments to reflect that.

After they’ve finished their day of hard work, prodding cattle or making countless jugs of coffee for customers, the rodeo queen, showgirl and roller waitress all meet up at the Pink Flamingo Bar & Diner on the highway where they smoke cigarettes, drink whiskey and talk about the men they love.

LCF News: And Ellen, meanwhile your collection addresses a very real and important topic. What’s it about and how did you get interested in creating it?

EG: For my final project I decided to create a lingerie brand specifically for women post mastectomy. The brand is called ‘Hummingbird’. The name was mainly inspired by the great Mayan legend of the hummingbird; ‘to keep balance between spirit and nature’. The idea of the brand is to bring femininity and confidence to the women whom may feel theirs has been taken away through surgery.

Ellen Goldie, BA (Hons) Fashion Contour

Ellen Goldie, BA (Hons) Fashion Contour

In the current post surgery market there are only a handful of brands that offer mastectomy bras and they definitely don’t offer “lingerie”. After in-depth research and talking to women first hand I found that they wanted was to feel feminine and pretty again, and just because they have had the mastectomy doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel sexy and wear luxurious lingerie. My collection mainly consists of soft pastel colours; ivory and blush tones, using soft lace, mesh panels and silk.

For such practical bras, you have to really consider where women’s scars and tender areas are. This has a major impact on style lines, seams and shapes. Also the placement, size, construction and shape of the pockets for the prosthesis inside the bras have to be carefully considered

LCF News: What have been your highlights of the past three years?

SON: I really like that LCF work hard to make you employable. Every aspect of my course has taught me skills that can be used in future in my career.

EG: I was selected for the ID magazine competition Diversity Now and I also had a stylist request a piece of lingerie I made in second year to be used in a photo shoot on burlesque dancer Katrina Darling, Kate Middleton’s cousin. It was published in Inked Magazine, New York, on a full page.

LCF News: As part of the second year of your course both of you have undertaken industry placements. Where did you work and what was it like?

SON: LCF Careers invited garment supplier Rachel Rogers from Courtaulds to give us a lecture. Everything she said really struck a chord with me and I decided that I really wanted to work there. My placement made me pay more attention to detail and taught me the importance of not cutting corners. I understood garment construction 10 times better when I returned.

EG: Yes, I had quite a busy placement year! I went to Bordelle, Debenhams, Coco De Mer, and Chromat in New York. I learnt so much. I think all my skills developed massively including CAD work, sewing, technical specifications – everything really. It was good to learn how things actually work in the industry and even things like meetings and talking to clients, suppliers and factories.

LCF News: Finally, do you have any advice for those thinking of studying fashion contour?

SON: Apply yourself fully!

EG: Fashion is a tough business, and Fashion Contour isn’t easy, you need to have an eye for detail and a desire for perfection. The skills this course provides you with are totally invaluable. The tutors are so knowledgeable and will do everything to help you achieve your goals. It’s a really exciting course and amazing city to be in – immerse yourself completely and make the most of it!

Follow Sian on Twitter and Instagram, and follow Ellen on Twitter and Instagram.