Belfast fashion designer Chloe Dougan is celebrating after she was recently invited to the the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange in Buckingham Palace, during London Fashion Week.
The prestigious event, which takes place on February 19, will showcase established and emerging fashion talent from across the Commonwealth’s 53 countries in order to highlight the power and potential of artisan fashion skills to deliver new networks, trade links and highlight sustainability.
Having studied Textile Art, Design and Fashion at the University of Ulster, Belfast, Chloe graduated in 2014 and was soon awarded a residency position in the Fashion Department where she mentored final year students alongside working on her own label.
Having showcased at the likes of Belfast Fashion Week and the Fabulous Fashion Teas Fashion Show at the five-star Merchant Hotel, Chloe was named ‘Artist to Watch 2015’ by Culture Northern Ireland and was nominated as ‘Young Entrepreneur’ at the Lisburn City Business Awards where she was awarded second place, and is currently the Artist in Residence at Duncairn Arts and Culture Centre.
“This development has been created and is endorsed by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge and The Countess of Wessex, and we will be attending Buckingham Palace, in the company of representatives from the fashion world such as, Stella McCartney and Burberry,” Chloe reveals.
“Eco Age are organising the event itself, with its main aim to discuss sustainability and eco fashion in the industry, with emphasis put on the importance of hand made and bespoke creations.
“It goes without saying I’m so excited about being chosen and see this as a fantastic opportunity to showcase myself, my brand and represent women in the industry, particularly from Northern Ireland,” Chloe adds. “I’m so nervous as I’m not sure what to expect - but I know it’s going to be an amazing night!
“I’m over the moon about this opportunity and I still can’t quite believe its happening to me. I feel my career is still very early in its development so I am very lucky and grateful for his wonderful opportunity.”
Naturally, Chloe is keen to model one of her own bespoke, handmade creations on the day, though taking into account the royal setting was key. “I’ve made myself an outfit that reflects my brand and style,” she reveals. “I am aware of the occasion and location of the event so I have had to take that into account when designing as I want to look appropriate for such a special occasion.
“I was so nervous cutting my material as the pressure is really on! My outfit is classy and stylish with a little hint of leather to put my own twist on it.”
And whilst creating was always in Chloe’s blood, she reveals it has taken time and devotion to hone her beloved craft, “I started sewing in school, I used to make myself little makeup bags and pencil cases. I have always loved clothes and fashion and it’s taken practice to build up my pattern cutting, designing and sewing skills.
“Whilst I studied Textile Art, Design with Fashion, it wasn’t until I left university that I realised I could really make a living with my designs. “Work experience with Una Rodden showed me the work ethic, determination and drive that are essential in this industry.
“Una and her team are such hard workers and its really inspiring. I would have to say Alexander McQueen is my favourite designer, as his thought process and ideas are incredible. My style icons would be Blake Lively, as she is very classy, elegant and understated, and Rihanna as she is quirky and confident and can carry off very fashion-forward looks.
“Here in Northern Ireland we are becoming more appreciative about bespoke garments and designing. The Republic of Ireland are very appreciative of this and I think Northern Ireland will soon follow in their footsteps as over the last few years more and more young designers have emerged. I think the rise in social media as a platform for advertising and marketing have really helped with emerging talent.
“My advice to aspiring designers is to get some work experience and make sure to do something creative every day, you need to be devoted to your cause and you can never give up on your goals.”
Meanwhile, Chloe has exciting plans for the future, “I’ve recently designed a collection of Couture dresses and jumpsuits that are perfect for formals, weddings and special events. I intend on approaching some local boutiques about expanding my brand to different retailers and intend on working on this collection as soon as I return from my London trip. The collection is very glamorous and the pieces will really make a statement, perfect for that ‘wow’ factor at a special occasion.”