As part of our ongoing, collaborative project #DRIFT, we are excited to launch our series of Artist Interviews with the creatives involved. We discuss practise, process and career advice.

We kick-off with Sarah O’Neill, a designer working within the sustainability and zero-waste movement. Sarah tells us how she uses anthotype print process, experimenting with different plant materials – such as red cabbage, algae, onion skins and nettles – which she then applies to organic textiles to make her one-off pieces…

“Ultimately nothing can stack up to simply not making and consuming clothes, you can only be responsible 

and conscious in your approach and that ethos really resonated with me to challenge my approach to my

 designs. Going forward I don’t want my brand to be completely focused on sustainability, for me It is more

 about making innovative designs and having a personal responsibility to design and produce them 

in the best way possible.” – Sarah O’Neill

Could you tell us about your background in the design industry and how you developed your practise?

I’m a Cork based ethical fashion designer, creative director and most importantly, I’m an activist in the ethical fashion revolution. Throughout my education I gravitated more and more towards ethical fashion, and now specialise in sustainability and zero waste through my process and practise. I’ve always had a strong environmental awareness which initially sparked my interest in sustainable fashion.

My focus was then nurtured from my internship in London with ethical brand Faustine Steinmetz while assisting them on their collections for both London and Paris Fashion WeeksIt was there that I realised we can drive this necessary change in the industry on a global scale. Faustine has always rallied against the fashion industry’s reliance on mass-production; their pieces are unique in their production, they spin, weave and dye the fabrics in their studio, using ethically sourced cotton and recycled denim.

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How would you describe your design style and process?

I adapted my practise and approach to sustainability through traditional pattern cutting combined with zero waste pattern cutting along with stand work to create asymmetrical silhouettes. I believe the most sustainable approach is to reclaim and repurpose garments and textiles, working with pieces that have the lowest carbon footprint. I invest in vintage and second-hand clothes to circulate the life cycle of the garment in order to reduce the waste sent to landfill and with the intention to circulate responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible. I incorporate a lot of drape in my designs to try and reduce as much fabric waste in my patterns, using mainly reclaimed clothes for fabric and organic materials such as bamboo and cotton. All my fabrics used are natural fibres and repurposed fabrics.

I am always evolving my anthotype print process, experimenting with different types of plant materials such as red cabbage, algae, onion skins and nettles. Along with different  natural toners and mordants. I believe the most sustainable approach is to reclaim and repurpose garments and textiles, working with pieces that have the lowest carbon footprint. I believe we should be investing in vintage and second-hand stores in order to reduce the waste sent to landfills. For me as a designer It is important that my approach is to make sure I have really considered choices around the way the materials are made and used, where that item is made and what happens to it afterwards so it is fully recycled and recyclable.



What aspect of your career to date are you most proud of?

My Degree Portfolio was chosen to be showcased in Graduate Fashion Week in London last year alongside a select few graduates that represented their universities across the UK and Ireland. 

This opportunity gave me great confidence in my ability and creative identity, as well as a lot of exposure. In addition to academic institutions, Graduate Fashion Week pulls together industry names, influential people in the industry and the media, so the exposure I got from this was priceless

Could you tell us more about the artwork you are planning to exhibit as part of DRIFT?

It is a Textile installation piece using anthotype print methods on reclaimed fabric and reclaimed fishing wire. Using Algae as my photosensitive plant material to dye my fabric. It will consist of a series of images of the Atlantic ocean, using my anthotype process to print straight onto the fabric. The piece is in relation to “the war on plastic”, the concern about the detrimental environmental effects of discarded plastic

Each printed piece of fabric will be suspended on rows of fishing wire, representing a piece of plastic drifting in water for eternity. An image we have become a accustomed to as more and more of our rivers, lakes, seas and oceans are becoming ingulfed with the overabundance of garbage and the indestructible non-degradable material that is plastic-petroleum. My intention with this piece is to stimulate conversation and thought around how we can solve this crisis.

Could you share with us the best career advice you received?

The best piece of advice I received was from Faustine Steinmetz when I was interning with her in 2018.  She said –

“Nothing is sustainable. You can only be responsible, really.”

That advice has really resonated with me over the past few years and has made me really focus on delving deeper into my process and really trying to explore the best methods that make the least environmental impact .There is no such thing as “sustainable fashion” it’s an oxymoron. It is now impossible to ignore the connection between human behaviour and the environmental crisis, and unfortunately the apparel industry is a huge contributor to this devastation. I’m making a conscious effort to reverse this trend so that future generations do not inherit an irreversible disaster. As a designer I understand that I am inherently part of the problem, but I can design and create with the environment’s best interest before my own.

You can see more of Sarah’s work on her Instagram feed, and once we’re back-up and running you’ll see his beautiful images as part of our DRIFT exhibition on show at Sea Fest 2021. 

To coincide with the interviews, each artist will be in residency on our Instagram bringing us behind the scenes of their practise and process. 

Stay tuned to our Journal for more interviews with our artists and industry friends.

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