Earlier this year we were lucky enough to sponsor the Fashion Styling & Creative Direction Award at GFW 2019, where after meticulous judging, Aoife Malone was announced as the well-deserved winner.
Through fashion photography and styling, Aoife’s work explored the contemporary politics and issues that still affect young people living in Northern Ireland today. Her work focused on key issues, that in her opinion, are preventing Northern Ireland from becoming a progressive society; including attitudes towards abortion, same-sex marriage, loyalist marches, segregated schooling and punishment beatings.
We recently invited Aoife down to our size? studio where she worked with our stylists to put together her own fashion shoot. Catching up with her we spoke about her time at university, the inspiration behind her work and plans for the future. Here’s what she had to say…
Which university did you attend, and what is the most valuable thing that you learnt there?
I attended Heriot-Watt University which is located in Galashiels in the Scottish borders, an hour away from Edinburgh. The most valuable thing I learned during my time at uni is that when creating an image, the story and narrative is everything. The narrative is always what comes first and then you can build the styling/overall image around the story you’re telling.
What encouraged you to study a fashion-based degree?
I’ve always had an interest in fashion and the arts and I started my blog when I was 15 to share my personal style and purchases. It’s enabled me to meet a lot of the Northern Irish creatives like photographers, stylists and designers and I ended up becoming a regular at the fashion and PR events in Northern Ireland. I actually had no plans on going to university and planned on interning instead, so the decision to move to study Fashion Communication was very last minute and spontaneous. I spotted the course online and decided to apply, within a week I had been accepted and planned my move to Scotland.
What was the concept and inspiration behind your work?
Throughout my four years at University, I have covered some aspect of Northern Ireland every year. I’ve always been extremely passionate and well informed on both the past and present political climate in Northern Ireland. When I moved to Scotland I realised how little my friends knew about what goes on in Northern Ireland and would proceed to bend their ear off over the likes of the DUP and abortion/same-sex marriage rights.
My final major project is called 3 Miles Wide and it is a call to action for change in Northern Ireland regarding 6 topics including, same-sex marriage rights, abortion rights, the peace wall, the 12th of July celebrations, segregated schools and paramilitary attacks. These issues are often not nice to hear about, but translating them into fashion images was a way for me to explain the situation in Northern Ireland through a creative medium.
You recently won the size? sponsored Fashion Styling & Creative Direction Award at GFW, how did you feel when you found out?
Not everybody from my course gets picked to show their work at Graduate Fashion Week, I was surprised to even be picked to go in the first place so you can imagine how surprised I was to be nominated and then shortlisted. I’d like to think I’m a pretty confident person but before the judging, I was quite literally shaking in my boots.
There were 6 judges, all of whom were hugely inspiring and successful. My project is all about the narrative and the styling fell into place after I had decided on each story. I explained each of the shoots and their respective narratives to the judges, talking through all of the facts and figures I could remember without going blank. They were all very positive and I knew it had gone well, but I didn’t realise just how well.
I found out that evening that I had made it into the top five, I really couldn’t believe it and some of the work I was up against was incredible. I kept my mum in the loop with everything and she was so over the moon when I made it into the top five.
My best friend ended up missing her train to stay for the awards ceremony because she said that she knew I was going to win. She FaceTimed my mum for the whole thing who was at home with champagne – no pressure eh?! When they called my name all of my uni friends screamed like crazy and I think my mum cried for a good twenty mins – the champagne probably induced that.
Since then, you’ve been at the studio with our size? Stylist. How did you find being on a real-life set?
The size? team were absolutely amazing to work with and you can tell that they love what they do. The HQ was such a cool and creative space and Grace the size? Stylist taught me so much in such a short space of time. The most important thing is that the devil is definitely in the detail.
Do you have any advice for students taking on their final year?
Always be true to yourself and stick to what you’re passionate about. If you try to cover a subject because it’s trendy or it’s what you think you should be doing people will see right through it. Know your stuff and do it well.
Where are you hoping to be in five years?
I’m hoping that I’ll have an established career and will be living in a European city like Barcelona or Amsterdam, working for a creative company.
Who in the industry inspires and excites you?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Sophia Amoruso, she founded Nastygal and then went on to write GirlBoss which is full of career tips and inspirational stories. She’s since started a GirlBoss platform which will work as a female-focused networking tool.
Which brands would you like to see collaborate in the future?
I’d love to see a collaboration between a trainer brand and an upcycling/charity shop company. I see so many amazing vintage trainers when I’m shopping in charity stores, so I think a collab that sees pre-loved trainers revamped and then resold would be really cool. I’d also love to see Stormzy link up with an independent designer to create a collection based on his latest single Crown; I think that could be really interesting!
How do you see sustainability affecting the future of fashion?
In the last few years, I’ve seen a huge shift in young people becoming concerned about sustainability. It’s becoming the norm to be conscious of what we’re purchasing and throwing away. I think the future will see the throwaway nature of shopping disappear, with consumers focusing on buying well-made clothing that will last for longer. At Graduate Fashion Week I saw a huge amount of designers incorporating sustainable fabrics into their collections, and I think that alone is a sign of the times.
What’s your favourite trainer?
I’m currently loving the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star 70 Renew.
Who do you get style inspiration from?
Instagram and fashion bloggers are a huge source of inspiration for me and have been for years. In particular, I love festival fashion and seeing how people mix different trends and materials to come up with an almighty creation. As well as this I love experiencing street style in different cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam and London – the inhabitants of these cities never disappoint with their style!
3 favourite influencers to follow on Instagram?
@TarMarz has been my number one for years now. She’s an Irish born NYC based fashion grad and she has impeccable style and produces the most beautiful content.
@Frassyaudrey is another huge favourite, she is an incredible content creator and writer based in Barcelona. I live vicariously through her Insta because I’d love to live in Barcelona.
I’ve recently started following @macyeleni and I’m totally obsessed already. Her style is gorgeous, really laid back LA style and her feed is a dream.
In case you missed it, check out some of the style trends we spotted while at Graduate Fashion Week 2019.