Since we last spoke with Colin Horgan from Ardfert, his star has risen like no other! With his list of celebrity clientele growing fast, his profile within the media growing exponentially and the establishing of his flagship design studio in Ardfert, we thought it was time we caught up with one of Kerry’s finest exports to hear about life, fashion and showbiz.
Since we last spoke with Colin, his career has gone from strength to strength. I asked Colin how it felt reflecting back on the last few years and how his career has developed?
“I never in my wildest dreams imagined the path my career would take. I think the last time we spoke here in Connect was probably 5/6 years ago and I was just a student. It’s been a small bit of a whirlwind as in I’m here in Ardfert but I’ve become so much more. I did it to prove a point that you can go out, take what you need from the opportunities, you don’t always have to be based in a big city to have these kind of opportunities come to you. It’s been amazing, I never thought that I would do TV work and even with that said, there has been more TV work to come out of it so it’s really been an honour to represent Ardfert and the wider community of Kerry.”
Colin’s latest collection, Affinity Eleven for Autumn Winter 22, is filled with rich, bright tones. The cut of the fabric accentuates and hugs every curve of the body making for stunning silhouettes, it’s very easy to see just why Colin’s work is in such high demand. I asked Colin where the inspiration for this latest collection came from?
“With Affinity Eleven, I’ve been looking back to a degree at my previous collections which were all big collections of work. One half of them would be of interests to shops and the other half could fall by the wayside or used in press and photo shoots. That was really the starting point for me. I then began looking at self-preservation, fabrics that would last and be sustainable. With this collection I wanted to be more considerate to the female form, focusing on silhouettes that I know could work for different shapes and for me that meant going as far back to my graduate collection from Limerick. It’s funny when I say that because I think back to Art College where I used an entire collection of Navy and I swore I would never work with the colour again having used so much of it! But low and behold, little did I know in 2022 I would be going back to it and in essence, falling in love with the colour again. I have always worked with these bright colours so what was great was reflecting back on my previous work and seeing the start of it all with navy. Then the brighter colours were introduced through each collection, so to see the combination of the navy with these brighter colours in Affinity Eleven it’s almost like full circle. The shades within this collection I believe that will sell well and look great on everybody.”
From growing up in Ardfert travelling to Limerick for college then moving to London, Colin has now returned to his roots and opened his design studio in the humble village of Ardfert. Akin to something from almost like a film script, I asked Colin what brought him to the decision to come back home and base himself in Ardfert?
“I was nervous of course because over in England you’re told that London is the Centre of fashion and an incubator for talent. For me, I felt like I had gotten what I needed from London. I am such a family orientated person and it was upsetting to me that I kept missing family events and special occasions that were happening at home due to work commitments in London.
So in summer 2020 I started trialling getting pieces made back here while I was still living in London and thankfully it worked so I came back.Initially I thought I would do a few months at home and a few months in London but then with Covid, London Fashion Week went online in a virtual capacity. I thought to myself, this is brilliant I can still be at home in Ireland, in Ardfert and still present my work to an international audience! So yeah, it has worked quite well, I’m happy with my decision.”
Kerry has produced some of the finest talents in the fashion world, including Colin and Don O’ Neill, yet the road to success is usually directed to London, Paris or New York. I asked Colin if he felt there much supports offered to young people looking to start a career in fashion and to the wider fashion community to remain in Ireland?
“I suppose that is a very tricky question to answer! I have been very lucky in that sense that I have been very well supported in the press both local and national and with celebrities wearing my collections, but yes there is always ways to improve if I’m honest. There are so many fashion incubation programs in London as opposed to Ireland so it can be a little trickier to get a start here. The industry itself is a very complicated one, it’s not as straightforward and can be fickle to a degree. You can have a moment in the spotlight and then just as easily fall by the wayside.”
The pandemic has hit every business in every way. But in a business where you rely on people attending events and needing an outfit for them, it made the fashion industry amongst some of the hardest hit. I asked Colin how did the pandemic affect his business and if it brought changes to him both career wise and personal life?
“When it came to the business there really was no business. I had to shut the door and felt that even though my brand was doing great in the press, it financially wasn’t great. To a degree I kind of shot myself in the foot? There was all of these celebrities wearing my designs but only they were wearing it and a lot of the time the clothing isn’t paid for, some of them did and some of them didn’t, it became a downward spiral really. The Fashion industry can be perceived in that way, in the media I was doing amazing and I might sound like a spoiled brat saying this but the actual sales were falling by the wayside. When the pandemic hit I actually thought I was going to stop fully, it was hard but it did me good. I’m the kind of person that likes to be kept busy so I started helping with my parent’s businesses, I still do today because I like giving back to them, they’ve been incredibly supportive of me and my career. I really assessed what I was doing career wise, what was the output, what was the end goal, re-evaluated the business model and came back with a bang thankfully. I focused more on people having the opportunity to buy really great lasting products. I started looking at different suppliers and fabric producers, now I work with a really great supplier from Japan, beautiful fabrics from Germany as well and then everything is actually made here! It’s really taken me a while to refine down the brand, you can take two different roads, the short or the long road. At the beginning I wanted to get more exposure for the brand but now it’s more business focused in terms of I need to run it as a business and make some money. I have been incredibly lucky coming out of a pandemic having the support from stores both home and abroad, it’s almost felt like I needed to come home in order to shine!”
Anybody driving through Ardfert will now see Colin’s design studio as they pass. Colin has insured that his brand remains accessible to all women and in a county like Kerry where the social scene thrives on events like no other, this will be very welcome news! So if its lady’s day at Listowel races or the Rose ball, what better way to ensure that nobody else will be wearing the same outfit as you than to have one designed bespoke personally by Colin for you! I asked Colin how one would approach the studio to enquire about an outfit?
“Absolutely! They can email me and we can arrange an appointment either virtually or they can come in to the studio to me. We can measure up initially followed by a fitting with a prototype where you would then select the fabric so that we can go on to produce the design. You can even choose from the ready to wear designs which are customisable to the client’s needs or shape. All the ready to wear collection is available in black also. At the moment the collection comes in sizes 8-14 and the only reason I do just those sizes at the moment is because I am a small brand and financially it’s just what is realistic for me to produce. But with my customising or bespoke it can be any size, I am trained in tailoring so I would never like to exclude any sizes. I’ve worked with so many different body shapes over the years so I know what will flatter each individual. So really it’s a very straightforward process and everyone is more than welcome to contact us.”
With the whirlwind that has been the last few years for him, I asked Colin what is happening career wise for him in the next 12 months?
“There is actually a lot to come! There will be more TV work alongside the fashion work. My biggest concern right now is trying to decide should I show my collection in London Fashion Week or Paris Fashion Week. For the reason that I was signed to a PR agency in Paris and that’s working really well for me so I’m just thinking that I’ve done a good few seasons in London it might be time for a change? Thankfully everything is going really well and I have Aileen Carville who is my mentor, she is also my sales agent and just an amazing lady. She runs digital B2B wholesale platform called SKMMP. She is just such a great mentor to me and together we are just thinking we should take everything to Paris. London is such an amazing place full of up and coming new talent, I think maybe I’m a little but too old for it! So yes, that would be the next step for me and Spring/Summer 23 will be presented hopefully around the time of my birthday in September. There is a lot of collaborations happening this year also that I am very excited about. One of those collaborations is with a very well established actress, I’m very excited about this one and just cannot wait to be able to talk more about it! The TV work that is coming up is actually UK based, it’s with BBC3. It’s similar to the style of project runway, alongside Blue Hydrangea of RuPauls drag race fame. It was a really exciting project to be a part of considering also that it was overseas.”
As a young person growing up and coming to terms with their identity or sexuality, it can be daunting living in a small rural setting and worrying about acceptance. Thankfully Colin is providing that role model to the youth of the LGBTQIA+ community. I asked him what do you say to them about pursuing their dreams?
“I was that kid once upon a time that had those dreams and had those ideas but didn’t always fit in to the social construct of what was “normal”. I just hope I can shine light on even one other person to just be yourself, luckily we now live in a country where it has gotten so progressive. I think kids are even now coming out a lot younger than I would have had the courage to do, so it’s great to be able to represent the LGBTQIA+ community and to be considered a role model to any young person, it’s an honour.”
It would be hard to end an interview and not ask Colin who is on his bucket list of celebrity personalities to work with?
Oh definitely there are a few! I would love to work with Rihanna, she is making pregnancy look really fashionable and just so cool! Anyone currently watching Euphoria will know exactly who Hunter Schafer is! Hunter is a really cool trans actress who I would love to work with!”
Colin, thank you so much for taking the time during a hectic period to chat with us, it was a pleasure as always.
For more information on Colin and to book an appointment contact via email on email@example.com