€10,000 prize for Cork woman who later went into fashion design
WHEN Rosemary O’Connor couldn’t find an age-appropriate A-line sundress in the stores, or someone to make her one at what she thought was a reasonable price, she took things in hand – she learned to do it herself.
She began a three-year course at the prestigious Mallow College of Design and Tailoring, and has just won the Longines Designer Award 2022.
The award was recently announced as part of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend, one of Ireland’s biggest running events, which took place at Leopardstown and the Curragh.
Sewing has always been in Rosemary’s DNA. Originally from Dublin, her grandmother used to sew and she remembers turning the wheel of her sewing machine as she worked.
His mother June also had her own business designing and selling children’s clothing.
“As a young mother of four, she was importing fabric from Germany to make children’s clothes and I remember modeling them for her when we were young, and going to the Dandelion Market in Dublin for the sell with her,” Rosemary said.
It wasn’t until three years ago – following her unsuccessful shopping for a summer dress – that she felt motivated to go near a sewing machine herself.
“Everything I saw in stores was either too low cut and not age appropriate or badly cut! I figured it was no brainer, and with one of the best design schools in my door, I registered!
It was 2018, and the mother of three was savoring every minute of the fashion design diploma course.
“It was a three-year part-time course – two evenings a week in person in 2019, on zoom in 2020 and I moved to one day a week in 2021.
“It’s a very intense course that combines sewing skills and techniques with pattern drawing skills and also incorporates many modules on fashion history, trend research, designers and classics” , she said.
An avid rider, it was only fitting that Rosemary win the prize at racing’s biggest event.
She met her husband Maurice through equestrian events and they live in Dromohane, where they breed horses, and keep a few young horses and Connemaras. She competes in amateur show jumping events and is a member of the North Cork Riding Club.
His winning design was one of 50 entries in the contest.
The judges commented on the intricate tailoring and level of detail featured in Rosemary’s two-piece outfit and matching headpiece. Its creation was inspired by a trip to the Feria de Sevilla, a great Spanish cultural tradition just after Easter.
“It’s almost like the National Plowing Championships where each family/organization/group creates their own Canesta – a sort of marquee village and celebrates during the week. This week is also the official opening of the bullfighting season.
“We were lucky enough to get tickets to a fight involving Lia Vincens – a female matador who fights on horseback. It was such a display of equestrian art and skill.
“Later I returned to the museum in Plaza Des Torres in which there are a few rooms dedicated to the costumes of the Matadors known in Spanish as the ‘Suit of Lights’ – beautiful high fashion garments decorated by hand with rhinestones embroidered in silver and gold. . It was these garments that inspired my winning design which sought to define contemporary race day elegance.
As part of the overall prize, Rosemary received a package of €10,000 – a Longines Time coin and a cash prize of €1,000.
Rosemary dedicated her victory to her mother, who sadly passed away in November.
“We were very close. I used her as a kind of “guinea pig” for many of my outfits when I started out. She was fascinated by the course and would have been very proud of me,” Rosemary said.
His three daughters, Mary-Clare, an art teacher in the UK; Mairead, physiotherapist at Bon Secours in Cork; and Aideen, a veterinarian in London, have also recently taken an interest in sewing, prompted by their mother.
“The girls bought sewing machines and Aideen in particular adapted things she bought from second-hand shops,” said the proud mum and grandmother of three.
She thinks it’s a great life skill to have: “It’s wonderful to be able to upcycle or adapt pieces, especially as we move away from fast fashion and cheap clothes that will only end up discharge ?”
After graduating, Rosemary has since returned to Mallow College, where she raved about founder Mary Cashman and tutors Jess Lucas and Sue Pearse for improving their skills.
What’s next for her?
“Watch this place! Anything is possible! Styling is a hobby at the moment but I’m full of ideas so you never know where they might take me. And to anyone thinking of teaching a class at college, I wholeheartedly encourage it,” she said.
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