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Categories: Events, Interview

This week we talk to the lovely and extremely talented Ciara Monahan, a festival lover with a serious fashion pedigree and maker of the best (often animal-inspired) headpieces we’ve ever seen… ever. Be sure to check her out HERE.

Tell us a bit about what you make.

I make kitsch, colourful and playful womenswear and accessories. These range from laser-cut Perspex jewellery to heavily embellished floral bags, digitally printed dresses and knot tops. It’s like falling into a tropical fancy dress box.

How did you get the idea for your products?

It all stemmed from my graduate fashion collection I showcased last year. Oddly enough the concept of it was based on the film Amelie. I’ve always loved the scenes of a Gnome having his photos taken in various locations around the world so I based my collection on a garden gnome who had grown weary of English garden life and set off to travel and collect tacky souvenirs along the way. My products portray his stop in tropical paradise which I based on an amazing trip to Bali I had a few years ago. I haven’t had a proper holiday abroad for 4 years, so I think I was essentially living my holiday dreams through my collection! I love playing with the kitsch aesthetic and this has been heavily thrown into my work with the pineapples, flamingos, keyrings encased with fabric, headpieces that are giant versions of those amazingly tacky cocktail decorations you find on straws. Even the 3D flamingo and pineapple brooches I make are inspired by weird slotted construction toys I used to play with as a kid. It’s all just about having fun with what I make really.

How do you actually make them?

It varies from product to product but everything is made by myself. The headpieces are handmade from wrapping specifically chosen fabrics around each headband, I take the time to mould the wire onto the paper headpieces to make sure it sits comfortably on the head in right kind of quirky position. Some are embellished with flowers and fruit that I’ve sourced in London. I design my own digital prints, pattern cut all my garments and create all the technical drawings for the perspex jewellery which are then sent out to be laser cut and then assembled in my studio. I’ve started taking on interns now as more products are being made, just so I’m acting like less of a machine-type person!

What advice do you have for anyone who is thinking about starting to make and sell there own products?

If finance is an issue hunt out places that help with funding and start-up loans, you get fantastic mentoring from these schemes that help any doubts you have about your business filter out. It’s really important to have someone to talk to for support and advice when there’s something in your business you don’t quite understand how to deal with. Just coming out of uni I found this to be a lot of help to push everything in the right direction. It also helps to have a solid business plan, and of course be pro-active and keep a ridiculous amount of to-do lists on the go (always easier said than done!). You only live once, if you’re committed to your products and your business you won’t have any regrets about starting out on your own, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made!

What’s your favourite festival memory?

Oh there’s so many to choose from…They’ve all melded into a beautifully colourful blur! Once we lost a group of friends at Bestival just before New Order was meant to be on. I was dressed as a disco peacock and was covered in bright fairy lights, so I was hoisted into the air by my friends to act as the shining landmark beacon in the crowd to guide them back to us. The view from that was pretty spectacular!

What’s your least favourite festival memory?

I stayed out one night in the pouring rain in the most un-waterproof ‘raincoat’ known to man in an attempt to see Caribou at Glasto one year. I genuinely thought I would never feel dry, warm or alive ever again. Then, out of no where, an insanely drunk dwarf that was dressed as a clown, and has all his make up running off his face from the rain in true horror movie style, fell into me and couldn’t move. I thought I was hallucinating from the extreme drenching, but no this was actually happening. I was so confused and similarly couldn’t move from how frozen I was…I was essentially his siamese twin for the rest of the performance.

If you were a festival which would it be?

Probably Bestival. It’s so colourful and they have some of the best props!

What are you top 3 festival essentials excluding baby wipes and toilet roll?

-Some kind of ridiculous headpiece. Last year was all about the feathers

-Portable fairy lights, powered by your soul (or so I like to tell people)

And of course -GLITTER. So much glitter it could blind a person.

I’m obviously very practical.

What’s your favourite festival food?

I’m a bit obsessed with Ostrich Burgers! I’m a sucker for the novelty plus it usually comes with stilton, which I could live on. But if I can’t get a piece of that it is ALL about anything with halloumi. Are you spotting a pattern here?

How long do you normally leave a festival wristband on for?

About a week, just to make me believe that I’m still there and not back in the real world. When reality has properly set in I snip it off and it gets pinned to a board in my room, got a snazzy little collection going on so far and I don’t plan on it stopping!