Garb: Orla Langan – Right Here. Right Now.

Posted May 9, 2017 in Fashion


Orla Langan reignites her passion for fashion with Here, her new collection.

“Sometimes you just have to reinvent yourself. Find a new angle,” says Orla Langan on her recent return to the world of fashion and design. Originally a designer by trade, Langan has worked for the likes of Puma, Fila and Lee Jeans. She has two of her own previous labels under her belt and, on a part-time basis, wears the hat of lecturer at NCAD. She has a masters in Multimedia Systems and has worked as a trend analyst and forecaster for the world’s leading forecaster, WGSN. And now, perhaps for her penance, has found herself back in fashion.

Her latest creations, an engagement of denim and sportswear, denotes functionality as much as it does fashion. With bold colours covering relaxed structures, the garments have an undeniable air of nostalgia about them. But, rather than throwing us back, Orla’s creations propel us forward, expertly adding a relevance to the rags of the past. Through the use of colour, print and industrial inspiration; Orla conjures up a deft sports luxe vibe and, in turn, poses the question as to why she ever left the fashion industry in the first place.

“To be honest, I think I just got bored,” she explains. And after over a decade in design, who can really blame her. Orla graduated from NCAD in 1991 and was one of the few to be offered a job in Dublin, almost immediately after college. “I worked for a childrenswear company for four years. I didn’t realise it at the time but it was brilliant experience. I was so lucky to be exposed to a direct design situation straight after college.”

The lasting impact of those beginnings in childrenswear translates to her work today. “Maybe it is from doing kidswear that I’ve always drifted towards casual wear,” muses Langan. “There is something about it that I’m drawn to. The aesthetic, the fabrication, the minimalism. I was that generation – Adidas, Nike, that’s what we wore. And to me, at the time, their material experimentation was a lot more interesting than what was happening on the highstreet.”

With experimentation in the air, Orla, alongside fellow designer, Antoinette Brennan, set up the label Antor which was a series of t-shirts printed with ogham lettering. Undoubtedly a success for the two, the brand was stocked for a season in Brown Thomas, a fate envied by almost all Irish designers, young and old. Laughing slightly, Orla recalls her first label, “looking back we were so inexperienced.” And with a gentle eye roll she continues, “we didn’t even follow up with them after that one season. Antoinette was getting married, I wanted to do more design projects, so we just went our separate ways.”

Orla moved on from Antor to set up her first solo label, Optix. Conceived of denim and cotton, the look drifted somewhere between athletic and edgy, which was unchartered territory on Dublin’s female fashion scene at the time. It sold both home and away for four years adding an urbanity to the retail scene in Dublin and easily fitting in with the effervescent Brick Lane clothing scene in London.

As Optix had its last look, Orla explored different areas of interest. “I felt that there was more going on than just garments. At this time the growth of smart textiles was on the up. I had just started my masters and began to notice other things around me outside of fashion. Smart textiles and fibre optics were being used more and more, particularly in sportswear and that fascinated me. I loved how athletic gear was embracing technology and though I had taken a step away from it, this interest brought back my love back for fashion.” Pausing slightly, Orla continues, “I guess I do really love fashion, after all I keep ending up back here.”

Here, in the here and now, is an everyday collection. An urban look which rises above the highstreet, and has a sustainability to it that the likes of the Topshop troop don’t try to reach. “One of the reasons that I gave up fashion initially was because I cannot bare the waste.” Strong on the subject of fast-fashion, Orla laments the culture of people “buying for the sake of buying.” An unfortunate norm for 2017, so many of us “have too much and discard it too easily. It’s just horrible. I’d love to see it change.” The designer is positive but will not let the over-produced genetically modified cotton be pulled over her eyes. Though she strives for change she acknowledges: “there is so much talk about sustainability but it is still very much in its infancy. People are not taking it as seriously as they should be.”

Through her latest creations, Orla will try her best to nurture this cause. On a conscious mission to establish her brand as a sustainable one, she is using eco-friendly materials and natural dyes. Orla Langan’s work is a mesh of activity and awareness displayed decoratively across an athleisure canvas. It is responsible, it is relevant. And it poses once more the question as to why Orla Langan ever left the fashion industry in the first place.

Words: Sinead O’Reilly


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