Student makes the cut for Florence’s top five designs

A FIRST-YEAR fashion student from Co Donegal beat off stiff competition to make the top five in a worldwide competition to design a dress for Florence Welch of hit band, Florence and the Machine.

Oliver Doherty’s design was whittled down from 1,500 international entries to join five other finalists, including professional and amateur designers from Britain, the US and China.

As a top-five finalist, the 19-year-old’s work will now be showcased in a number of US fashion magazines.

Florence had offered designers the chance to create a bespoke stage dress for her upcoming performance at Terminal 5 in New York. Oliver’s was the only Irish entry to make it to the final stages of the competition.

The Florence-fan from Ballyharry, near Culdaff on the Inishowen peninsula, is in his first year of a Higher National Diploma course in textiles at the North West Regional College in Derry.

“I did a lot of research into what (Florence) wears on stage and I discovered that black was her favourite colour and that she is interested in Grecian styling. I also wanted to bring my own influence to the design. I work a lot with structured pieces, so that inspired me to create my design,” he said.

The teen said he was stunned when his creation – a black dress with embroidered and chiffon detail – was first voted 50th in an online poll of the best 120 sketches.

He was then informed his design had been selected for the judge’s choice, making it one of only six in the running for the coveted overall prize. He then had to submit additional sketches to help retro queen Florence and her judging panel make their final choice.

Oliver received a call last Thursday from Florence and the Machine stylist, Aldene Johnson, who informed him the singer loved his work and that he had finished in the top five. “It’s all so surreal. I am still in shock that I ever got this far and I’m so grateful to the art and design staff at the college who guided me to follow my interest in textiles last year and on my current course,” he said. Oliver is working on a collection for a fashion show in Galway next year.

North West Regional College textiles lecturer, Mary Harrigan, said: “Oliver is a very talented student. He is well deserving of this recognition, as he works very hard.”

The overall winner of the competition was London-based Cristina Adami.

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