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.