Dublin-born Jacqueline Quinn is one of Ireland’s most successful designers. She has made her mark by designing and consulting for some of the world’s most renowned brands and organizations such as New Balance and the US military, as well as creating custom designs seen on the red carpet. Jacqueline previously worked as the Head Designer for John Roberts, Perry Ellis and Bill Blass before launching her own label, Quinn New York, in 2005.
How did your interest in fashion lead you to owning your own fashion house today?
I have always been interested in fashion and fabrics and how they came together creatively. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work in textiles or design but after my core year at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art and Design I knew I wanted to study fashion design at Grafton Academy, where I learnt the old art form of pattern making and couture dress making. After designing in UK and Ireland for a number of years I moved to New York in 1995 to become the Head Designer for John Roberts.
What does a typical day in your studio look like?
I spend a lot of time in the showroom consulting for many different designers trying to break into the US Market. As the Creative Merchandising Director of the showroom I advise designers on how to make their designs work for the many different climates in the US and how to tweak their designs for the US customer.
This is the first year in quite a few years that I am producing my own collection. The ‘Jackie’ line will be presented at NYFW this September. The iconic looks of the 1960’s and 70’s as well as the sisterhood of Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill inspired this collection. Today I feel there is a huge need for women to own garments that are easy to wear, with a great fit but feminine at the same time.
Which fashion designer do you most admire? Why?
My favorite living designer is Beirut based designer Zuhair Murad, he does a lot of red carpet dresses, and his beading, fabrication and workmanship are a total art form.
Chanel is one of the most influential designers of all time; she was ahead of her game – the first to put women in trousers in the 1920’s. She challenged the ideals of how women should dress and mastered it and became very successful.
What is the guiding principle or mission for your business?
I believe in paying it forward, because the fashion industry is so tough, I like to bring in interns to teach them their craft and to show how the fashion business works. Many of my previous interns have gone on to become very successful in different areas of the industry; one of my first interns from Co. Tyrone is now a Director at Burberry.
Your new collection is inspired by mental health awareness. How did that come about and what does that mean to you?
"Touched by God and Angels" is a collection of 18 dresses inspired by paintings at the National Gallery Dublin and the Michelangelo painting at the Kimble Gallery in Dallas. It was designed to put a "Visual on something Invisible" to create an awareness for mental health issues which have affected some of the people closest to me. Instead of going to therapy we decided to ‘do’ therapy, each dress tells a story and represents a time, place or mood, as they are all symbols of love and loss.
The American Ireland fund requested the first installment for the American Ireland fund dinner at the Fairmont in Dallas in May and it was a great success. I was also approached prior to my trip to Dallas by the family that own one the largest couture collections of"Stanley Hagler " jewelry. They have offered the Collection of Jewels on loan to hang with the dresses from this collection. This is the first time they have loaned the pieces as they were moved by my Collection. I am currently working with Pieta House and IIBN to show the collection in Dublin later this year.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
My collection was in 78 stores before the recession hit in 2007. These stores began closing, when the 25th store closed I knew we were in trouble and had to stop manufacturing my own brand, that’s when I started consulting for other designers.
Why did you join the IIBN?
I loved what they stood for, intelligent networking with incredibly interesting people, an eclectic mix of people from fashion to finance and everything in between. I also feel that there is nice balance of male to female, as most business networks tend to lean one way or the other.
What benefits have you seen from networking?
Through the IIBN I was put in touch with the Kilbeggan Races, where I have sponsored the ‘Best Dressed Lady’ for the last 2 years. From a business perspective and I’m also soon to be launching a new collection in Europe it means a lot to have it affiliated with a sophisticated event such as the Kilbeggan Races. That connection has been very beneficial, creating great press for my brand and meeting some great people.
What advice would you give to young people looking to break into the fashion industry?
You won't be wearing heels every day because the long hours on your feet will kill you! It’s a tough business, very demanding, having to come up with new ideas and concepts twice a year. I would say to intern with a company where you can learn as much about the business as possible and be well looked after, what you put into it you will get out of it – work hard, you’re not there to make the tea and coffee.
What advice would you offer your 21-year-old self?
I would tell myself to listen more and talk less, I felt like I knew it all, I would have saved 5 years of mistakes if I listened more