Katie Ann McGuigan is a designer from Ireland, a creative enamoured by prints and a previous Merit Award Winner. We caught up with her in her London studio to hear about the inspiration for SS18, where her brand is going from here and the design process from conception to show day. Whilst a simple glance at her designs is enough to instantly recognise a unique creative talent seen in the garments through their modern kind of originality, it is the humility and honesty with which Katie speaks that really shines out among the noise in the industry.
Designers often cite other artistic disciplines as their primary sources of inspiration, with Katie looking to specifically to the photography of Perry Ogden, in his book Pony Kids.
“This is the book that I’ve based everything on, so I’ve looked at it primarily. I’ve looked at lots of different photographers that take photos of Irish travellers. So Perry made this book called Pony Kids which is about Irish travellers and their horses. I go from more mood in photography to base it on, and then I take inspiration from that.”
This book may be connected to Katie’s spring summer collection, yet it’s a selection of imagery that has always been in her life. “That book I’ve been looking through for years, it’s really hard to get hold of it, I got a copy on amazon from Dallas! So it says Dallas on the front and it has pages missing…I look at different artists all the time, for shapes or print ideas, what someone's done with a shape, even at the start of a project I’ll research and create collages. I’ll normally collage and draw for a week to try to get a feel.”
Recently, Katie won the MittleModa award for the most creative collection in Milan. When asked how the award ceremony went, a response focused on the atmosphere and people present as opposed to her own achievements is informed by warming humility seemingly unusual in a world obsessed with self-promotion. “There were people that were graduating, people that had graduated the year before, and there were people that had started up their own brand, there were so many different people from all over Europe and America...
...having two days with these people and sharing experiences, and with different abilities and what they create... it was so cool.”
Seen represented by a world map, Katie’s career so far has spanned the Atlantic ocean, as spent time in New York underneath Marc Jacobs. The most important thing this experience taught her, is simply... “Everything! When you intern you learn so many different tricks from people and everyone’s skill level is different, whether you’re working with seamstresses or pattern cutters you’re working with people that have been in the industry for years. Because when you’re in school, they teach you and it’s good but you’re in a class. You learn so many secrets and tricks [whilst interning but] the main thing I learnt is that you can’t do everything yourself, you need a team. You have to give jobs out you’re not a one man band, behind Marc there are hundreds and hundreds of people, he has people that he can rely on, investors.”
The move from intern to self made brand is a transition that cannot be without rocky moments, but it’s celebrating the remarkable not-so-everyday achievements that works for Katie and her team. “We’ve only been in this studio for like a month now. Because we had to wait as it was a new build, and it was renovated, so there were problems with the contract and stuff. But when we got the keys I was like YES LET'S GO!”
“At the start of the last collection and at the start of this, it was just me, working on collages and researching prints. I liked that because it was just me and I didn’t have much responsibility. But now making before a show, it’s next garment done, is it working, do I have enough for a seamstress, you know, trying to spread the workload and manage it...
...when things come together, when we get a garment together or finish a piece we spend a good twenty minutes pottering about with it. Just seeing it, it makes me feel happy, like, yes another one is back. At night I get funny about locking the door, wondering, are they ok?”
When asked where Katie intends to take her work from here, she is clear that the intention is “to start selling. I never had the opportunity to...everything happened so fast and when you do fashion design you don’t do marketing or PR. ” Whilst it’s clear Katie is learning as she designs that the industry is more widespread, and that often creativity alone is insufficient, her attitude and strong championing of collaboration is one that will carry her ever upwards from already extraordinary beginnings.
Words by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins
Photography by Rory James