Belfast Telegraph

Co Antrim fashion designer: When Bronagh Waugh wore my clothes in Paris, people stopped and asked who her designer was

Young fashion designer Hope Macaulay is already making waves around the world with her surreal clothes. She tells Stephanie Bell how a visit to the dentist inspired some of her designs... and what it's like to have celebrity clients

She graduated only a few months ago but already Hope Macaulay's funky fashion designs are creating a stir. The 22-year-old from Co Antrim was selected to showcase her first collection to an influential audience at the graduate show during London Fashion Week in September.

Her stand-out style was spotted by local award-winning hairdresser Shane Bennett, who was inspired to use Hope's collection for an international hair event in London last month.

Hope and Shane stole the show at the Salon International event, which was staged over three days in front of a crowd who had flown in from across the globe.

The impact of Hope's bright and arty designs, perfectly teamed with tresses coloured and styled in the same vibrant hues by Shane, led to offers for a repeat performance at two major hair events next year in England and Poland.

Shane, who has a salon in Lisburn, is a three-time Northern Ireland Hairdresser of the Year winner, and his salon is the only in Northern Ireland to have picked up the coveted British Artistic Team of the Year Award.

He knows a thing or two about fashion, having run his own hair business for more than 20 years, but he was dazzled when he saw Hope's collection at London Fashion Week.

"When I saw Hope's show at Graduate Fashion Week I thought, 'Oh my God that is amazing', but I had no idea that she was from Northern Ireland," Shane says. "It is a long time since I was blown away like that.

"Hope is a name to watch out for. The way she puts everything together - the colour, the fabrics and her own unique ceramic embellishments - is fantastic and it's clear that she is going to go far. I am so happy that I teamed up with her for the Salon International event. We were on stage five times over the weekend and were watched by a worldwide audience.

"I took my inspiration from Hope's designs, using the bright yellows and cerise pinks and other bright colours from her clothes, and the audience just loved it. It was a real explosion of beautiful colour with real hair and it had the wow factor."

Hope was naturally thrilled that her work had again wooed a worldwide audience.

She graduated last June from the University of Creative Arts in Rochester with a BA honours degree in fashion textiles and print.

Before that she completed a short course in fashion design at Central Saint Martin's in 2015 and an art and design foundation course at the University for the Creative Arts in Epsom in 2016.

She now works from a small studio at her parents' home in Portstewart, where she is designing her first ready-to-wear collection, due to launch next year.

Mum Lesley worked as a consultant and charity fundraiser for Guide Dogs NI until recently, when she decided to launch her own business as a freelance fashion stylist.

Hope's dad is Tony Macaulay, a well-known writer, peace-builder and contributor to BBC Radio Ulster's Thought For The Day. He also works as a management consultant.

The family made headlines recently when Tony and Lesley announced they were resigning from the Presbyterian Church after it voted not to accept people in same-sex relationships as full members. Their other daughter, Beth (24), has been in a same-sex relationship for three years and runs a wedding photography and video company, Magical Moments, with her fiancée.

Perhaps fittingly, Hope's first celebrity fan, local actress Bronagh Waugh, chose to wear one of her creations when she picked up an award in Paris recently in recognition of her support for the LGBT community.

Bronagh looked stunning in a Hope Macaulay mini dress with matching jacket as she took to the stage to accept her Laureate for Northern Ireland for LGBTQI Equality at the Tolerantia Awards.

The 35-year-old star of Unforgotten and The Fall married her long-term boyfriend in England this summer, but she refuses to sign the marriage papers until marriage equality becomes law here.

Hope says: "I really support what Bronagh is doing and I was delighted when she contacted me.

"She found me on Instagram and said she loves keeping an eye on new graduate collections. When she saw I was from Northern Ireland, she said she would love to wear one of my pieces at the awards show.

"I met her in Belfast with my mum and brought three pieces from my graduate collection for her to try. She chose a mini dress and a matching blazer.

"She told me people were stopping her in the street in Paris, asking who designed her outfit, which was pretty cool.

"She was so nice, a really lovely girl. Hopefully she will wear my clothes in the future."

Hope believes it is no accident that she decided on a career in fashion design, having grown up with a grandmother and mother who both adore clothes.

She says: "My mum and my granny are both very fashionable women.

"They are always shopping and are so into designer clothes. Mum's wardrobe is insane - she has got so much in it.

"She loves that I am designing and she helps me out with the business side of things."

While Hope has always been creative, the inspiration for her work today comes, rather unusually, from a frightening hallucinatory experience at the dentist, when she was given laughing gas as a child.

It left her fascinated by the mind, distortion, the meaning of reality and the art of surrealism, all of which have influenced her designs. She explains: "I was 13 when I got a tooth out with laughing gas, although I wasn't laughing.

"It was a really scary experience. I hallucinated. I thought I was dead and it looked like the dentist's head was flying everywhere. I cried afterwards.

"It made me interested in the brain and how it works. I thought it was so cool that you have these parts of your brain which can make you hallucinate and have illusions, and that has inspired every project I have done. There is a surreal element to my designs."

Hope creates large, expressive collaged paintings which she transforms into prints and combines with detailed beadings and knitting to create her garments.

She also creates her own embellishments, inspired by her passion for ceramic-making, using Fimo clay and various fabrics and beads combined together.

Her graduate collection, A Surreal Rome, represents a dreamlike world, inspired by the history, myths and art of Rome.

Her clothes are busy, bold and colourful, and she says each piece tells a surreal story.

"My concept is not a representation of reality, but a surreal world which you may find in your dreams, inspired by the history, myths and art of Rome," Hope explains.

"It was inspired by a trip that I took to Rome in the summer. I was fascinated by the sculptures, paintings and architecture of the Trevi Fountain, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum and the Doria Pamphilj Palace.

"I learned about ancient Rome, Roman gods and goddesses and mythical creatures, which gave me ideas about creating my own mythical creatures and beings in a surreal world.

"I have combined my large, expressive paintings together with distorted photographs I took in Rome into colourful busy prints, to create a visual of a surreal Rome."

The fact that Shane, one of the best-known figures in the local fashion industry, asked her to collaborate on a show gave Hope's career yet another boost.

She says: "I put all my skills and passion into my graduation collection.

"I've always loved ceramics and I made these little faces from Fimo clay which I worked into the knitwear. I just thought it would be fun to use ceramics in fashion.

"It was amazing how Shane created the hairstyles and colours to go with my outfits.

"He was inspired by my clothes, but what he created also inspired me in my work.

"What he did was incredible. It is the best my collection has been styled.

"I loved the whole punk rock look that he created. It made me want to go on and create a more punky edge to my clothes.

"I am making a ready-to-wear collection that will be available online.

"I also hope to launch it at a trade show in London next year and, who knows, maybe get it into a few shops."

Hope's bold and bright graduation collection is set to become her signature style.

She plans to carry it though for everyday clothing as she develops an exciting new luxury womanswear brand.

She explains: "I will have a lot of colour in my ready-to-wear collection.

"I would like the collection to be edgy and out there, with clothes that will stand out from the crowd."

You can follow Hope's progress on her website, www.hopemacaulay.com

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