Designer Helen Steele turned to some of Ireland’s best known faces for a project which saw stylists step aside to let some of the country’s most in-demand models put their spin on the designer’s classic mac, writes Carolyn Moore.
In the days before Instagram It girls and social media style stars, there was one trend-setting cohort of fashion industry insiders to whom every budding fashionista looked for style inspiration. It wasn’t the designers or stylists, but the girls tasked with bringing the vision of those creatives to life. It was the models.
As the advent of the supermodel and the explosion of paparazzi culture collided in the ‘90s, models were propelled to bonafide celebrity status, but it wasn’t just their rare genetic gifts that fascinated, it was their style.
Not the manufactured images of perfection which stalked the runways or preened on the pages of Vogue; rather the oft-imitated, never equaled precursor to street-style: ‘the off-duty model look’.
Models were, after all, the girls who had access to next season’s trends this season; who were gifted that future must-have Chloé bag at a shoot or a show, and would throw it nonchalantly over their Marc Jacobs tee as they darted between jobs.
Papped on the streets of New York, Paris and London, the effortless ‘off-duty model’ look reigned supreme before those same streets became a catwalk for the self-styled (and over-styled) street style stars of today.
Always on the go, models dress primarily for comfort, but with a seemingly instinctive style edge that surely comes from being dressed for a living.
While you don’t have to have great style to be a good model, it does seem most models develop an intrinsic understanding of what works; as if by osmosis, they cultivate the style smarts needed to pull off this quintessential look.
In a bid to tap into some of that unique style nous, stylist Jan Brierton and designer Helen Steele turned to some of Ireland’s best known faces for a collaborative project which saw the stylist step aside to let the models put their spin on the designer’s spring/summer ’17 mac.
The results show there’s still a style tip or two to be gleaned from the girls standing in front of the camera.
Keen to showcase the talents of some of Morgan The Agency’s most in-demand models – who combine the skill to be a blank canvas for the creatives they work with every day, with the confidence to bring something of themselves to every job – Brierton assembled an all-star lineup that included household names like Thalia Heffernan and first time VIP Style Awards nominee January Winters.
“I wanted to find a way to showcase each girl’s individual style, but keep a common thread throughout, so I arrived at the idea of 6 Girls, 1 Coat,” Jan explains.
Inspired by Karl Lagerfeld’s “Little Black Jacket” exhibition, wherein the designer asked 100 muses, from Alexa Chung to Kanye West, to model the famous Chanel design, Jan sought out an equally iconic garment.
“The piece of clothing was important to me - it had to be something unique but also versatile. I’m a massive Helen Steele fan and instantly thought her mac was ideal – it’s a classic with a twist,” she says of Steele’s contemporary and highly individual take on a perennial style staple.
“We live in the wettest part of Europe, so I wanted to design something I would wear on a daily basis, and that was a mac,” Helen explains.
Known for her signature prints, she then developed one specifically with the mac in mind. “I wanted a print that was dark but not too harsh against the skin,” the designer reveals.
“I called it ‘Gunner’ because I was working on it around the time of the 1916 celebrations, and I noticed lots of imagery from that time showed people in macs.
“Each girl brought something totally unique. January’s shot was so charismatic and playful, and Thalia… well, she totally owned it. She made the mac look exquisite.”
Casual chic. Typically you’ll find me in jeans, a big jumper, and a pair of trainers or flats, but I always try to bling up my outfit with some jewellery - stacked rings or a few necklaces.
It’s definitely inspired me to be more creative. I’ve worn so many outfits when working that I personally would never have put together, yet when I see the final result it looks amazing!
I paired my favourite black leather jeans with a simple white vest top, which for me is a standard day-to-day outfit.
Style is more than just what you wear. For me, it’s an expression of who you are, and how you convey that.
Accept that whatever you wear, it isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
: I keep it quite simple – knitwear, jeans, leather jacket.
I’ve had hundreds of industry professionals over the years style me in numerous different ways, so I’ve been able to pick the best looks and get loads of different ideas. I’m often inspired to go and purchase something we used for a shoot.
I kept it simple and wore it with a polo neck. It’s something I’d wear every day.
When someone shows their personality through their appearance, that’s style.
Experiment! Pick something you’d never wear and just try it.
I aspire to have style that’s classic, elegant, and sophisticated, though my budget doesn’t always allow it. I love to find small details that make a look stand out.
I worked with Simone Rocha a couple of years ago, and fell in love with her designs. Her creativity made me aspire to think outside the box more in terms of my own style. Her aesthetic is feminine but also edgy and unusual.
I’m wearing it with brogues, which are a college-life staple for me. I’m often rushing around and they’re perfect for comfort and look great with dresses and skinny jeans alike.
For me, style is found in originality, confidence, and an understanding of your own beauty. Whether you go for an understated look or something more ‘out there’, if you do it without caring what other people think, then you have style.
Be comfortable in your own skin. Before you can learn to experiment with what you wear on the outside, you’ve got to be comfortable with what’s underneath.
My look is quite relaxed and casual. Comfort is key for me, and vintage or pre-loved is my preference.
I think it took me a few years to know my own style because I was being dressed up every day, but there are things — like high-waisted pants for example — that I would never have gone for if it hadn’t been for work, and now I wouldn’t go for anything else.
I wore it in a very relaxed way, with just a lace bra underneath to keep it a bit edgy; then I added my usual hoop earrings.
For me, it’s being comfortable.
There are so many blogs out there, so research online. Start by looking and then just try out different looks!
: It’s a mix of modern and vintage. I like finding quirky, one-off vintage pieces, and pairing them with my go-to black skinny jeans and trainers.
I wear a lot more black, but in saying that, modelling has also taught me which colours suit me best. From being styled so many different ways you learn what suits you.
I teamed it with a loose cashmere sweater from Selected Femme, my Topshop skinny jeans, and my Nikes. I left it open and loose on the shoulder, which is how I’d wear it — laidback and a bit disheveled!
‘Style’ is something that’s unique to an individual. It’s about having your own buzz.
I save screenshots of looks I like from Instagram and then I try them out. What’s the worst that could happen?
I either go for a girly look — pumps, jeans, and a fitted sweater — or something slouchy: baggy tee-shirts, boyfriend jeans, oversized coats, docs and a beanie.
In this job you have no routine, and that’s very much reflected in my clothes. Modelling has made me feel less conscious about what I wear, but I think it’s changed my shopping habits more than my style. I prefer to buy less and focus on quality.
It’s worn over a shirt and jeans, something I threw on in a rush, but that’s what makes it ‘me’. I work with what I’ve thrown together, so I buy good quality things because I think they need less styling.
Style is an attitude. Certainly it’s clothes and how they’re put together, but for me style is in the finer details, the ones that make me smile.
Have great basics that fit and flatter, then start to throw in more diverse pieces, outside of your ‘comfort zone’. Then your style will grow organically.
- Photographer: Ethan Harte
- Makeup: Christine Lucignano
- Hair: Danielle Garner