The young ones to watch in 2014

PJ Gibbons profiles the young Irish people set to make waves this year.

The young ones to watch in 2014

OFTEN it’s the people most visible in the public domain — regardless of age, gender, or achievement — that are championed most and singled out for special attention. But often it’s the smart and savvy young risk-takers and go-getters flying below the radar that truly stand apart from the rest.

As we look towards another New Year, we turn our attention this weekend to the rising stars of tomorrow; the ambitious young men and women set on a trajectory for the top.

From fashion to film, these young guns are already proving their mettle in their chosen industries and are well on their way to making a name for themselves, not just on a national level but also on the world stage. The following five names are among those who we’re predicting will play a critical role in their chosen profession in the coming year.

Actor Jack Reynor, who made his début in last year’s What Richard Did, has just finished the latest Transformers film, and some major Hollywood directors are now eyeing him up for some leading roles in 2014. Meanwhile, 27-year-old fashion designer Niamh O’Neill from Dunleer, Co. Louth is making a big name for herself on the fashion scene here.

Just 16 years of age, Macroom girl Clara McSweeney has already débuted at London Fashion Week this season (for designers Bora Aksu and PPQ) and is expected to return to London’s catwalks in February.

Fashion designer Jonathan (JW) Anderson, 28, from Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, has been lauded by Donatella Versace and is set to take the reins at fashion label Loewe in 2014, while model agent Anne Morgan, 28, is attracting a lot of attention to her burgeoning Dublin-based fashion agency Distinct Model.

Will they all rise to the top in the coming year? Well, we’ll be watching them, and you should, too.


Petite 16-year-old schoolgirl Clara McSweeney is already being hailed as the new Cara Delevingne.

Clara, from Macroom in Cork, was discovered by former model-turned-model-agent Andrea Roche at one of her ‘Become a Model’ boot camps.

McSweeney, who is in fourth year in school, has already been photographed for a wide range of fashion publications and has been headhunted for international corporate campaigns for the likes of Toni & Guy and Diesel Jeans.

Last September the model, who is signed to Andrea Roche Model Agency, walked in not one but three shows at London Fashion Week, becoming the first Irish model to do so. Among the designers she modelled for in London this season were Bora Aksu and PPQ.

According to Andrea Roche (a former Miss Ireland), “Agencies worldwide are fighting to sign Clara up, so she is planning to spend time in NYC and Paris next summer.”

The Cork schoolgirl is signed to the prestigious Elite Model Agency in London and has been spending all of her holidays this past year in London modelling for some of the world’s biggest fashion brands.

Expect fashion world domination in 2014.


Voted ‘Fashion Designer of the Year 2013’ at the recent Irish Fashion Innovation Awards, 27-year-old designer Niamh O’Neill’s star is certainly on the rise.

Having honed her design skills in New York, London and Paris, where she worked alongside some of the biggest names in the fashion industry including Diane Von Furstenberg, John Galliano, Philip Treacy and Martin Grant, the Louth woman returned to Ireland in 2012 to launch her eponymous fashion label.

Her autumn 2012 debut collection highlighted a signature style, combining clean lines and contemporary cutting with luxurious fabrics, creating an instantly identifiable look of understated elegance that marked her out as a key player in the world of Irish fashion.

O’Neill’s spring/summer 2013 collection was another success, with its strong tailoring and soft draping accentuated by pretty shades of blush pink and bright fuchsia. Her recent autumn/winter 2013 collection embodied an exciting continuation of what went before, with her signature bow details and Lurex tweeds but in darker, stronger shades, such as black and red.

O’Neill’s famous leather pencil skirt puts in another appearance this past season, this time in a tomato red with a flattering draped effect at the front. Other key items included a red wool cashmere coat with leather bow belt, Lurex ‘Boucard’ jackets and the future classic ‘Renata’ dress in jersey with its draped bow.

The Dunleer native has big plans for the expansion of her label in 2014 and international buyers are already taking note. Having appeared in fashion shows in London and New York in 2013, the designer has established relationships within the retail sector abroad, keen to buy in to her clean, elegant look. O’Neill is also opening a second working studio in Belfast as she seeks to develop her brand and expand this Irish business to foreign shores.

And with yet another hugely-successful collection already under her fashionable belt, it looks like O’Neill can do no wrong. Her label is stocked in a number of exclusive boutiques throughout Ireland, including Emporium Kalu in Naas, Isobel in Limerick and Peel in Belfast. Additional stockists for spring/summer 2014 will include the Kilkenny store in Dublin, Serendipity in Kilkenny and Candyplum in Co. Down.


After a busy summer spent filming the blockbuster Transformers 4 with Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg, actor Jack Reynor was back in his hometown of Dublin and out on the town during November with his girlfriend, Limerick model Madeline Mulqueen. The 21-year-old has been enjoying huge success since last year’s film What Richard Did.

After signing up Reynor for the Transformers film earlier this year, director Michael Bay was happy to announce the casting news on his personal website. “I just hired a great new actor for Transformers 4 to star against Mark Wahlberg,” Bay wrote. “Jack Reynor is an Irish kid that came to America with 30 bucks in his pocket. Pretty ballsy. Seriously, who does that? Anyway I spotted him in a great little Irish movie ‘What Richard Did’. This kid is the real deal.”

Reynor, who turns 22 on Jan 23, was born in the United States but raised in Humphrystown, Co. Wicklow. His love of acting began on the set of Country directed by Kevin Liddy, in 1999. Between 2004 and 2010 he attended Belvedere College in Dublin, where he performed on stage in numerous productions. In early 2010, he was cast in director Kirsten Sheridan’s Dollhouse, which débuted at Berlinale 2012. In late 2011 he played the title role in Lenny Abrahamson’s highly-acclaimed What Richard Did and a year later he landed his first big studio role, the DreamWorks production The Delivery Man.

Already, a number of major Hollywood production houses and directors are said to have the actor in their sights for leading roles in big forthcoming projects. Colin Farrell, watch out.


The founder of Distinct Model Management, former model Anne Morgan aimed to set up an agency which promoted natural beauty and diversity.

While working as a judge for Elite Model Look Ireland in 2010, the now 28-year-old couldn’t help but notice the hundreds of tall, naturally beautiful girls with interesting, distinctive looks who had the capacity to make waves. Having recently quit modelling and studying for a Masters in Psychotherapy, opening a modelling agency had not yet occurred to her.

Morgan has since worked towards offering something different to other agencies and found that now is exactly the right time. After the success of her girls with bigger agencies internationally over the past year or two, Morgan’s goal is to keep her agency relatively small while maintaining an international standard.

Mentoring and developing models on both a personal and professional level, remains a top priority for Morgan, ensuring that Distinct implements a standard which protects the overall welfare of the models signed to it. With an in house team which includes a nutritionist, a career adviser, personal trainers and a psychologist, Distinct goes the extra step to provide models with the best overall mentoring and advice in the industry to ensure they remain safe and healthy throughout their careers and beyond.

2014 is already shaping up to be incredibly busy with a number of the model agent’s ‘new faces’ already generating massive interest from clients in the UK and Europe.


Donatella Versace has called him a great talent and LVMH [Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton] just recently announced that it is backing his signature brand — and banking on him to refresh the iconic fashion brand Loewe.

County Derry’s Jonathan (or JW, as he is known in the fashion world) Anderson may be feeling the pressure now that his Loewe role is public knowledge, but the challenge is unlikely to overwhelm him. The 28-year-old from Magherafelt is now set to become the new Tom Ford, as he starts 2014 by heading up the creative design for Loewe, one of the biggest fashion brands on the planet.

Anderson’s breakout moment came in Feb 2011 in London, when he showed a mod paisley silk pajama suit, topped with a white rubber clerical collar, as the centrepiece of his second women’s collection. The gangly Northern Irish lad succeeded in astounding seasoned fashion editors with his uncanny prescience: Paisley, it turned out, would crop up seemingly everywhere that season, in the collections of such houses as Preen, Etro, and the mighty Balenciaga.

In Feb 2009, as part of a Topman-sponsored line-up of young designers, Anderson showed a men’s collection inspired by “early 20th-century England and the aristocracy’s fascination with fantastical expeditions”. Later that same year, once again as part of the Topman showcase, he presented a black-shrouded men’s collection of stretchy athletic wear laced with fringed skirts and other tribal touches.

In Feb 2012, Anderson joined London Fashion Week’s official schedule. And in September of that year, Vogue highlighted his new, accessible collaboration, J.W. Anderson for Topshop. “When I go anywhere outside fashion capitals, I see the reality of what people can afford. I feel it’s a product that fits the times,” the designer said.

Dozens had queued up outside the store’s Oxford Circus location before the doors opened, while his bat knits and paisley tops sold out within a few hours.

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