Lia Cowan is an artist and designer whose mixed Jewish and Irish heritage has opened a portal where inspiration threads are spun from folklore and mysticism. Her approach to design is like that of an artist. Diverse themes are researched, explored, and responded to. Her sculptural background informs and adds another layer to the work, through silhouette, movement, and performance. Each of her pieces embodies its own story and has at its heart its own personal textile tale – handcrafted, hand-embellished, hand-embroidered, and hand-held. Going through a transformative journey of casting, gathering, draping, stretching.
Sassy & Co magazine recently caught up with Lia to discuss her journey in the fashion industry, and here’s what went down:
How did you get into the fashion industry?
My background is actually in Sculpture and Education, having completed a BA in The National College of Art and Design in Dublin. I taught Art as a secondary school subject for a few years, and I loved it and loved all my students, but I found something was missing. I missed the buzz of designing and making.
I have always had a passion for clothes and was quite experimental with shapes and silhouettes (some good, some ATROCIOUS), so I wanted the ability to make my own clothes. It started off as a hobby, but quickly I became obsessed. It was like something had sparked inside of me, and finally, I realised this was what I needed to do. From then on, I have done everything in my power to educate myself through courses, collaborations, and internships, and it has brought me to a place where I feel I have found my own unique voice as a designer.
What do you like most about being a designer?
There is no better feeling than seeing someone wear your pieces or for them to tell you how fantastic and confident they felt in them. It truly fills my heart with joy.
Downside to being a fashion designer?
Financially, it is definitely very stressful. I am at the beginning stages of my career, so I understand this is part of the package, and I am more than happy to do so if it means I get to do something I love as a career!
What has been the most memorable experience of being in the fashion industry so far?
My first magazine feature was pretty incredible. Only a year prior to this was I credited as an intern for another Irish designer I had worked with. To see your work photographed, and your name in bold as the designer – it’s pretty magical.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
I have worked with some fantastic stylists and photographers, each using my pieces in completely different ways which I love! In particular, Adam Walsh and Anne O’Shea (both stylists in Dublin) have been massive supports of me and my work.
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in the fashion industry. This can be about the industry or about yourself.
Don’t undersell yourself or your work. I think a lot of young designers come into the fashion industry assuming they are at the bottom of the food chain and so must act accordingly. It’s so important to put yourself out there, tell people about your work and who you are, be bold and be confident – the feedback may surprise you.
Is your family supportive of you being a fashion designer?
Coming from an Irish-Jewish family, it’s hard not to be showered with love and support every day. My parents are my biggest fans; my Mom is literally my Momager. I owe them both so much; they have been with me through everything – the meltdowns, the imposter syndrome, and they have celebrated with me through all the successes.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
I probably would say not to be so hard on myself in the beginning stages. I was obsessed with being the best or doing everything perfectly from the get-go. Everything is a learning experience, and I learned so much more through those mistakes than I ever would have if everything went “perfectly.”
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Don’t sell yourself short.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
I am hoping to move from Dublin to Holland with my Boyfriend Max over the coming months. We are both designers and have always wanted to move to Holland for its incredible design culture. Ideally, I would open a studio there and continue expanding my brand.
I will continue designing and making custom pieces while releasing two small capsule collections a year.