Style Stories: Caoimhe Murphy, fashion designer
Flouncy, fun and elegant: fashion designer Caoimhe Murphy’s pieces are made for playing dress up. As a summer of events stretches before us – from the races to back garden soirées and summer weddings – Murphy, a protégé of Helen Cody, shares her tips for how to be the best dressed guest, and more …
My earliest fashion memory: is sitting in my back garden having tea with my dolls, wearing one of my mum’s pink taffeta bridesmaid dresses with the skirt cut off – I thought I was the height of sophistication! My parents always encouraged me creatively which helped a lot: they bought me my first sewing machine when I was 11. I went on to study fashion in NCAD and I interned in the industry, too – I believe there’s only so much you can learn at college. Helen Cody became my fashion fairy godmother of sorts. I was hand-sewing and beading in her studio in Dublin and I loved every single minute. She brought me into her world of couture and feathers and Swarovski crystals: I was transfixed. I also did internships with Simone Rocha and Sorcha O’Raghallaigh.
Summer is my favourite time of the year for dressing up. My favourite outfit for a special occasion is usually a dress, particularly one with a lot of volume, that’s made for twirling – like the Shelly dress from my current collection. Milan-based stylist Jenny Walton is someone whose style inspires me, she is completely herself and always has fun with her outfits.
Dress for yourself, not for other people’s expectations of you. When you are authentic to yourself it shows in your body language, it’s reflected in your confidence. My advice? Choose an outfit that you love and feel comfortable in – it doesn’t matter what anyone else is wearing. Also, if you look at smaller brands, less obvious designers or even vintage when finding your outfit, you’re far less likely to show up in the same look as another guest (we’ve all been there!)
I choose function over fashion, every time. Personally, I stick to natural materials when dressing up as I tend to get very warm: I want to be comfortable and enjoy my night. I try to avoid wearing waistbands when going out for a meal because I love my food (and cocktails) and I tend to get bloated (hence the big voluminous dresses –the dream!). I’m extremely mindful of what rings or bracelets I have on, as if I’m wearing something delicate the fabric could snag easily! I also always make sure I have plasters, safety pins and bobbins in my bag. Even if I don’t need them, someone else might!
My spring summer collection was inspired by my grandparents. I developed the prints from looking at the patterns on china and trinkets in their house after my grandfather passed away last year. The shell and floral motifs are very nostalgic, I hope they evoke lovely memories of sunshine and beach days for a lot of people. I wanted the shapes to be really flattering and easy to wear as opposed to trend-driven, I want people to get years of wear out of these pieces. The kind of woman I envision wearing my clothes is open-hearted, embraces all life has to offer and sees the beauty and magic in things that other people miss.
I feel naked without my staple jewellery. A lot of my pieces are dainty gold jewellery – I always wear gold huggies or studs, one or two dainty gold necklaces and at least one gold ring on each hand. In summer, I’m all about small gold pieces, then in winter I love a pearl earring, especially with an all black outfit. Before I head out, if I’m unsure if I have too many pieces on I take a picture of myself or get someone to do it for me. It’s rather amazing how a picture gives your look a different perspective to a mirror. I use this technique when I’m developing my designs as well. There is nearly always a bit of sparkle in the pieces I make.
Most sentimental pieces? A pair of gold circular earrings, with a teeny diamond, that my parents gave me for my 21st; a gold bar necklace my boyfriend gave me for my birthday that has our initials engraved on it; my mum’s old diamond eternity ring that my parents bought in New York (I’ve always been a magpie!). I love pieces that can be personalised, like the Ray of Light necklace.
My ideal summer day would start with a hike with my boyfriend and my beloved dog Bambi in Glendalough, followed by coffee and croissants al fresco. Then I might go to town for some shopping with my mum and enjoy some people watching at Clement & Pekoe (they love Bambi there, he always gets the most royal of welcomes). I love to have a cocktail with friends on Wicklow Street and watch the world go by before going for dinner, maybe in Ukiyo or Fallon & Byrne. Then, most likely, more cocktails!