10 Questions with Creative Director of THEIA Don O'Neill

1) Where are you from and what inspired you to become a designer?

I am from a seaside village called Ballyheigue in County Kerry, on Irelands south west coast. I was always fascinated by the sparkling reflection of the sun on the bay in front of my home and dreamed someday of taking that sparkle and making it in to dresses.

2) Where did you study?

I initially trained to be a chef but after winning a full tuition scholarship to the Barbara Bourke College of Fashion Design I decided to trade in my knives for scissors and pursued a design degree at the Barbara Bourke College of Fashion Design. Upon graduation I moved to London and apprenticed with Gina Fratini, Royal Couturier and fabled ball gown designer.  I then worked with Couturier Donald Campbell in Knightsbridge followed by training alongside Christian Lacroix in the couture studio.

3) How many different lines does Theia have?

We have 3 collections- eveningwear, bridal and bridesmaids

4) Tell us about your new plus size collection.

We collaborated with Lovely Bride and created 6 styles exclusively for them, available in sizes 16W-24W. We debuted 3 of these styles on the runway, at our bridal show in October and I'm thrilled that all 6 styles are now available at Lovely Bride locations across the country! Inclusiveness is really important to us here at THEIA, and I am very excited to have this opportunity to partner with Lovely Bride on this new exciting initiative. I have long been a proponent of dressing women of all sizes, having created custom gowns for Oprah Winfrey and Gabourey Sidibe for the Oscars as well as creating red carpet gowns for gorgeous full figured stars such as Rebel Wilson, Ashley Graham and Danielle Brooks.

5) We love your inspirations each season. What inspires you these days?

Each season there is a new story, something beautiful encountered unexpectedly that sparks my imagination. A particular piece of music I heard last October sent brides marching down the imaginary runway in my head.. a very  particular theme that I am dying to share with you, (but that’s top secret ). However it will be very apparent when you arrive at the show.

6) Who is the bride you design for?

I design for a bride who is looking for something a little different. She is not your traditional bride.  She is modern and seeks simplicity in her dress, a clean elegant silhouette that is flattering and easy to wear. She wants to look amazing without breaking the bank.

7) What is your design process? Do you start with the inspiration?

I begin with my theme, creating my mood boards. Pinning on the fabrics and the embroidery swatches that fit in to this new world.  I like to listen to specific music when designing, either while sketching or draping and layering the fabrics and embroideries on my mannequin. 

8) Congratulation on your nomination for Best Irish designer award. Can you tell us about it?

Being Nominated was a huge honor, to be recognized amongst my peers,  each of them incredibly talented, some of them pillars of the Irish Fashion Design community who I have admired for decades. Pascal and I flew home to the award show in Dublin, a huge televised event, the highlight of the Irish fashion Calendar. I was not expecting to win the prestigious award, and as expected it went to international designer Paul Costelloe. The big award of the evening was presented last, The “ Industry Innovator” award. The presenter began to introduce this life time achievement award for this one individual who has done more for Irish fashion on the red carpet internationally than any other designer, forever proud of his Irish Roots, a marvelous ambassador for Irish design based in New York City … then the penny dropped as I knew that was me !!! A wonderful tribute video filled the giant screens. With everyone from Adam Glassman at O Magazine to fashion editors,  stylists and my family paying kind homage to my work and congratulating me . It was a complete surprise and over whelming to be held in such high esteem… in fact I am still pinching myself!! I’m also still deaf in one ear from my husband Pascal’s excited screams of utter delight as my name was called!!

9) Tell us about some of your favorite red-carpet moments.

I have been blessed with so many wonderful women who have chosen to wear my dresses on the red carpet and I am as excited today to see my dresses on the carpet as when they first appeared.  Carrie Underwood wore my first THEIA to the CMA’s in 2009 and Mom and Dad were sitting with us on the couch at home that night when we saw her arrive! That was sooooo exciting!! Carrie Underwood provided many of those magical moment early on in my career.  The stunning Angela Basset looked magnificent on many carpets in THEIA ,I am particular proud to have dressed Gabourey Sidibe at the 2014 Oscars , and of course Oprah Winfrey , when she received her Honorary Oscar. Amy Poelher looked Divine at the Emmy’s in a silver sequin THEIA gown, Rosario Dawson looked like the warrior Goddess Athena is metallic sequins. Most recently Kate Capshaw looked regal in THEIA at the Golden Globes.

One of the most exciting moments was thanks to Carrie Underwood , when the custom THEIA  “movie screen” gown we created for her became the most talked about dress at the Grammys as a light show of blooming flowers and butterflies were projected on to her dress and filled the entire theatre. “Carrie Underwood Lights up the Grammys “ became a sensation headlining newspapers and websites around the world.

10) What else do you like to do creatively?

I love to cook and I love to write. I am in the process of writing my biography as my life and been filled with so many blessings, twists and turn, and so many many incredulous stories that almost read  like fiction, many of which have appeared in various interviews resulting in repeated requests to write them all down in one place.