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Kaelan O'Neill

My name is Kaelan O’Neill, I am a fashion designer from Houston, Texas and currently based in London. My journey to fashion is a bit backwards: I graduated with Honors in International Business from McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, during which I studied at ESADE Business School in Barcelona. I worked at the World Trade Center of Barcelona, followed by business development at Oracle.

Although I was achieving these “milestones,” I felt wholly, completely unfulfilled. I decided to take a gamble: I saved $10,000, quit my job, and taught myself how to sew. Over the next three months, I made one garment per day, and with my 90 pieces in tow, I was accepted into the Royal College of Art’s Graduate Diploma. I was unable to attend at that time, so during my year-long deferment, I honed my skills working as an apprentice tailor at Nordstrom in Austin, as well as in various production-line factories.

My practice is indicative of this journey; I work straight from head to hand, intuitively creating to express particular emotions. My work centers around my personal experiences, often I will write poetry or make a sculpture as a precursor to the garments. I like to understand the “grey areas” of life: the moral ambiguities, the moments where you feel conflicting emotions and aren’t sure which is correct, the uncomfortable parts of life that make you squirm.

Given my “backwards route” to fashion, a majority of my time at the RCA has been spent trying to understand myself as an artist, and articulating what my process is. My factory background taught me how to be technically precise, but my lack of previous fashion education prevented me from having blinders of how clothes are “supposed to be.” I like to challenge myself to take anything and make it wearable. I know just enough of the rules to break them: I have never made a sketch, or followed research photos (I cannot draw to save my life). I akin myself more to a chef: mixing materials and mediums until I get the flavor just right.

Show Location: Battersea campus: Studio Building, Third floor

My final collection, The Butterfly Effect, tells the story of my fashion journey, with an homage to my Texas roots. I believe in "one-and-done": I don't makesamples or toiles; I use materials to incite conversations, manifesting in wearable pieces. My collection being shot on Polaroid mirrors this: life has no filter, and I don't believe in editing to make a "perfect image." The coolest moments in life are the ones you just live.

"Like water to my soul,

Fashion is to me.

I intuitively bleed,

For everyone to see.

I make straight from my heart,

I don't sketch, I don't draft.

It is truly an honor,

What my fingers can craft.

I've climbed and I've crawled,

I've sobbed, and I've bawled.

On this journey to truth,

And returning to my roots.

The biggest stars, they say, are the ones tinged with blue.

It's funny, you know, the way God gives me clues.

It only makes sense, the state I am in,

The Lone Star hole in the flag,

For my beacon to fit."

Warning: This work contains mature or explicit content.

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