Kathryn McKenna talks to County Down based designer Shauna Fay, whose specially designed dress made a sensational appearance at the glittering Golden Globe awards this week - and was complimented by the world’s leading supermodels and Vogue editors alike.
For anyone passionate about Northern Ireland fashion, it’s likely the name Shauna Fay will already be an extremely familiar one.
That’s because the Newry based designer is renowned for her stunning bespoke designs and ready to wear collections, which have long proven to be a hit with locals - often winning Best Dressed at the races and turning heads at fashion forward weddings.
But this week, Shauna Fay’s designs graced the world stage, after a client approached her for a very special occasion indeed.
“Local lady Rachel Clerkin actually just phoned the shop one day and told me that she was a guest going to the Golden Globes and would I be up for dressing her, and I instantly said ‘ yes of course!’ It’s not every day a designer gets that phone call,” Shauna laughs.
“Rachel was going as her dad’s guest, Jim Clerkin, who is president of his own company as well as CEO of the American Hennessy and Moet brand. So he wanted to go, and Rachel was his plus one this year,” she adds.
Laughing when I marvelled at the efficient turnaround - Shauna completed the dress in just two weeks - she reveals, “This year we probably had more notice than ever! With actresses, you don’t get much notice whether they are going to be able to attend or not due to their filming schedules.
“But with Rachel, because her dad had decided he was going, we were approached maybe three weeks before.
“By the time the design was confirmed it was probably two weeks in the making, so the turnaround was good and quick - but we also had one bride, four bridesmaids and a mother of the bride plus a guest all at the one wedding, then three guests the next day - so we were definitely non-stop!
“Rachel wasn’t leaving until January 2 so we were glad the weddings were all around December 29 so we had a few days where no one else was going out and we could get it all finished. We were flat out, we really were, but it’s always so worth it.”
“Rachel came in for a few fittings, and she’s just like every girl in that she loves a good long sleeve, and a nice and fitted shape. We got a few colours together and design ideas sketched up and she came back and picked which one she wanted, and that was it,” Shauna explains.
Having opted for a gorgeous deep berry shade with hints of black and rose gold detail on the shoulder and sleeve, the team were understandably thrown when news of the Wear Black campaign (to highlight sexual harrassment in the acting industry) emerged with just days to go.
“It only really came out through a stylist that everyone was going to be wearing black to the event around four days before, but the dress was made. I just said to Rachel ‘well sure take it with you, and if you feel like you want to wear it, wear it.’ And I think Rachel just wanted to fly the flag for Northern Ireland and went on ahead.
“Obviously it wasn’t compulsory, but had we known and had time, of course black would have been the colour. I did think it was an important message.
“Don’t get me wrong, it probably looked physically slightly morbid with everybody in black, maybe if they had of picked a brighter colour. But for what it stands for and the fact that it is only one year - the Golden Globes will be going on for another 75 years no doubt - it was a really nice iconic moment. I’m just glad we didn’t go for bright pink!”
And Shauna, who admits she was glued to the TV screen to try and catch glimpses of her frock, says she nearly fainted when Rachel sent a picture of herself cosying up to Kendall Jenner, the world’s highest earning supermodel of 2017, and Edward Barsamian, style editor of Vogue.com.
“I nearly died when I got that picture,” Shauna exhales. “She was literally sat beside them, and Kendall and the style editor both complimented her dress and asked who had designed it. It’s incredible to know that such high profile, established industry experts were complimenting my work. It is a wee bit surreal! It was a bit of a lightbulb moment.”
But unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time the talented designer’s work has been on show at a glitzy award ceremony, as she was approached in 2016 to design a dress for Northern Irish actress Eileen O’Higgins, from Castlewellan, who had a starring role in hit movie Brooklyn.
Shauna was later delighted when Brooklyn won Outstanding British Film, meaning the whole cast went up onstage to collect the award - giving a full length reveal of the showstopping gown. “The lovely Eileen O’Higgins was wearing our Evelyn dress with the fan detail, which we made into full length for her, which she looked absolutely stunning in. I still have Eileen’s dress now, I don’t want to part with it!”
Meanwhile anyone wishing to get their hands on a Shauna Fay creation of their own is in luck, as the latest Ready to Wear collection is about to drop this February 3.
“The new collection consists of lovely cocktail dresses aimed at ladies going to weddings, mother of the bride outfits, and ladies going to the races, and we have done a few longer pieces. We have around 12 to 15 new styles.
‘‘Colour-wise, this year I am loving lilac. We also have deeper rose pinks, corals, baby blues, and are trying out a lovely new mint green too.
“It’s amazing to have such a fantastic support network. The market for design here is outstanding. The publicity this brings is something a local designer like myself literally could not pay for,” Shauna continues.
“But I always say, it’s the local girls who really keep me going, they really do. I have women who always come to myself or other local designers for events and would never dream of going anywhere else. It’s amazing to sell a dress and know exactly who it is going to and where it is going to turn up. The local support has been outstanding.”
You can shop Shauna’s designs at Unit 4, Flurry Bridge Business Park, Lower Foughill Road. To get in touch, contact the shop at 028 3084 8436. Visit facebook.com/shaunafay.designer for information.