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People: Stylist Sara O'Neill on her special relationships

By Kerry McKittrick

The 33-year-old illustrator, stylist and print designer was one of the recent nominees for the Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Award in Hair, Beauty and Fashion. She lives in Portrush with her fiance, international big wave surfer Al Mennie.

My fiance, Al

Al and I met almost a year ago on Portstewart Strand.

We're actually very similar in that we're both incredibly passionate about what we do. We both have a real love for the sea, too, and that's inspired a lot of my work recently.

We're both very supportive of the other.

You can find him wandering around Fashionweek while I'm frantically working backstage.

When we're not doing that, I find myself spending mornings hanging around beaches or trying to keep warm in the van while he surfs.

My best friends

I have some very close friends. There's Dearbhla Hoolahan, who I met at a punk gig about 15 years ago.

Although neither of us do that sort of thing anymore we're still great friends.

The other three I know through work - Alex Smith, who I met when she was a model agency manager, Khara Pringle, the photographer who I work with a lot, and then Caroline Davies, who is a model.

Again, we all have an equal passion for something and understand how it can take over your life.

My parents, Eddie and Bernie

My mum and dad still live in Portrush; my dad is a lecturer in science and maths, and my mum is a nurse. I also have a younger sister and brother, Rebecca and Rory. They're both very different from me as they're both science-y people.

Rory lives in Belfast and Rebecca is in Manchester, and they're both engineers with PhDs. We're a very close family, though.

Because my parents both have quite traditional jobs, mum was keen for me to go into journalism and dad was keen on me becoming a teacher, but my styling career took off very quickly. They come to all of the shows I style now and buy magazines if I've been doing a shoot in them.

The person I go to for advice

That would have to be my mum.

She's very practical and open-minded. I do find it difficult to ask for advice - I'll mull things over for a very long time before I actually ask someone.

My mentor

For this part of my career my granny, Alice Kennedy, has been a huge influence.

I've just launched a range of printed silks called Eadach - the Irish work for 'fabric' - and it was my granny who inspired me. When I was young she would tell me all the stories of banshees and changelings that scared the life out of me.

Now I've used those stories as the basis of the collection.

Celebrity crush, Neil Gaiman

I don't really have crushes, but someone I really admire is the author Neil Gaiman, who writes graphic novels and short fiction. I just love the way his mind works.

Fantasy dinner party

Bill Murray would be my first guest because he's so funny.

Then I would ask Grace Coddington, the creative director of American Vogue and the most creative person in the world.

Then I'm torn between Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allan Poe, because I like them both.

I'm also torn between Debbie Harry and Stevie Nicks - just to balance up the girls.

  • Eadach, by Sara O'Neill, is available at Una Rodden Couture, Upper Arthur St; at BTS Concept Store, Queen St, Coleraine; or contact Sara directly at

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