Art / Fashion

Exclusive interview with Maria Lola Roche

Today we’re presenting an interview with the lovely Irish designer Maria Lola Roche. Being an artist and designer, her artwork features in the private collection of Ian Curtis, and her designs have awarded her international recognition by Marco Vincenzo [Fendi] and secured her places in awards such as the 2013 DIT Vodafone Awards and the Irish Peroni Awards.

FF:  It’d be lovely if you could tell us a little bit about yourself. What has been your educational background thus far? Which things spark your interest the most in your daily life? If you couldn’t have been a fashion designer, what other path would you have taken?

Maria Lola Roche : I was born in Dublin and moved to the country with my family in my teenage years and now I reside in Dublin. I’ve always been drawing, since as early as I can remember, and used to always have a suitcase for my drawings and paintings. I felt so attached to this suitcase and was devastated when I found out in later life, water had got into it and damaged it. In school I loved art, my teacher told me in secondary school, that I was going to one of the greats, and I was shocked by this statement as I had just apologised to her for not being able to listen to her instruction and going of on my own tangent.
I had to focus really hard on my leaving cert subjects, and so my art went on the back burner and my portfolio was never completed in order to enter art college and I found myself in an Accounting and HR degree. I never stopped drawing, it was something that I never thought about I just did-out of necessity. I didn’t understood this urgency for a long time and even hated it for a while, as I felt like if I wanted to stop, I couldn’t and not have this need to draw.
I can’t really remember the beginning of my love for clothes and making them. As a child I remember exchanging my first teddy bear for a doll dress I just had to have and my father was broken hearted when he found out. I desperately tried to get the teddy back with little avail. I began to make dresses when my granny died as I was given her old black singer machine. I enrolled in the Grafton Academy of Fashion Design at night through out my Accounting degree. I got a job as a fashion guru for Hotpress/One Productions, but at the time there was a rule preventing TV magazine shows, so it never got picked up and now these types of shows are on every channel in Ireland. With the BA completed, I found myself applying to do an MA in Advertising, doing art direction. In the interview the lecturer told me I should apply to an art college and urged me not to do this MA, but I didn’t take his advice because at this time I was rejecting my need to create and felt art direction was a happy medium.
Afterwards I felt incomplete, even after getting the highest in my class for my thesis, I felt that it wasn’t enough. At this time I began to paint my first art collection “Reconnection’ and got a job in an art gallery as a curator. I decided to organise an arts festival, bringing 50 artists, musicians, cinematographers, graffiti artists together under one roof. It received widespread media coverage such as The Irish Tribune, Le Cool and The Irish Independent and attracted a crowd of 500. I ended up getting a job in a Contemporary Art Magazine, Circa, but I was overwhelmed by an urge to go back to college and study fashion and left Circa to start the BA in Griffith college.
At this time, I met Hollywood actor Cillain Murphy and gave him one of my paintings for his collection. I was also granted the opportunity to present New Order, the Joy Division ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ award on stage with them. Ian Curtis’s daughter, Natalie Curtis now has a painting of mine in her private collection.-2
 FF: What messages or concepts do you wish to transmit through your collections? / What inspired your latest collection?
Maria Lola Roche : My work is considered Avant Garde and in this collection I explored my fascination with the form that all humans exist in from birth until death – a form that contributes to our identity and embodies the abstract. The visual focus was on certain parts of the body, in particular the ribcage. Exploring the ribcage’s negative and positive space led me to create contemporary bespoke haute couture designs that push the boundaries of fashion, and become pieces of art instead of mere clothes.FF: Coming from an Irish background, did you feel it was complicated to break into the fashion world?
Maria Lola Roche : Philip Tracy has revolutionised the fashion world. Although an Irish designer, he had to leave Ireland, as there is a limited fashion industry here. Big international movers do not come to Ireland and seek talent and there is not even a fashion week to display Irish design. Being an artist in Dublin is tough, I suppose its like everywhere else. Underground artists never get financial support, but there are lots of them and much public support for them, many move away frustrated and become international successes abroad and then move back to Ireland.

FF: Is there something that you are particularly proud of having achieved, say a milestone in your career?
Maria Lola Roche : Winning UCD Young Designer of the Year 2012 was an amazing moment in my career as it was a national competition and I faced tough competition. It was voted on by a panel of industry experts, including Stellar and Kiss Magazine Editor Corina Gaffney, Lisa Fitzpatrick and Courtney Smith.Last year top Italian international designer Marco Vincenzo [Fendi] chose my design ‘Ribbon’ out of 100 entrants, as one of the pieces shortlisted for the Irish Peroni Awards. This was another big moment for myself, as I was only in second year in college and up against designers who had already worked in big fashion houses, attended St. Martins, and who had many years experience.This year I secured a place among the ten finalists in the 2013 DIT Vodafone Awards, out of 40 entrants. The Irish Independent fashion editor, Barbara Power, was on the judging panel.

FF: What will be your next move? What projects will you be working on?
Maria Lola Roche : My degree was really intensive, and because I choose to do difficult and challenging pieces, 14-17 hours was a regular working day for me. So I am currently taking a short holiday to recharge and look after my health. I’m planing to travel to Italy in the summer and visit some factory’s – and get a luxury collection together as soon as I can.
I have also recently worked with Candice Gordon in styling her last music video. Candice has songs produced by Shane Macgowan, and will be supporting Nick Cave at Body and Soul festival. And hope to collaborate with her again in the near future. Currently I will be working on a commission painting for one of Arnotts top management. I have also written and illustrated a children’s book and hope to get that published soon.-1Thank you Maria.


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