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Strabane designer to unveil 'Signature by Haus of MoHawk' collection at Guildhall event

Lynsey McGarrigle started on her fashion journey making Barbie outfits from her mother's curtains. Now, she tells Gail Bell, the curtain is rising on her designs on runways from London to Beijing

Strabane designer Lynsey McGarrigle will showcase her ‘Signature By Haus Of MoHawk' collection at the Fashion Fest Fashion Show in Derry next month

NAMED this year as one of the top six designers at London Fashion Week, Co Tyrone fashion designer Lynsey McGarrigle has barely had time to unzip her signature swathes of black lace and chiffon to absorb the massive compliment.

In design terms, it's a virtual apotheosis and now the 25-year-old former model and beauty queen, whose accessories line sold out at London's second flagship event last month, is busy in her Strabane studio working on new "more wearable" designs for the high street.

Before that, however, there is another important, glitzy event to prepare for – Derry and Strabane District Council's Fashion Fest Fashion Show next month when the designer will showcase her ‘Signature By Haus Of MoHawk' collection to a local audience at the Guildhall.

"It's been a bit of whirlwind at the moment, but I am so excited to be bringing the collection home," she says. "This is my third year taking part in Fashion Fest and I think it's a great platform to showcase inspiring and innovative designers.

"I have been chosen to be the closing designer for the show which is a great honour – especially when I'm on home turf."

A former Miss Tyrone , Miss United Nations Ireland and Miss United Nations Europe – all in 2011 – she's not always on 'home turf' these days and spends her time flying between Northern Ireland and London.

And, she had "just about left the stage" at London Fashion Week in September when she was invited back for the key February 2017 event.

Having also just been selected as the finale designer for a high profile show in Cambridge the same month, she is currently juggling a number of projects, including a fashion shoot with erstwhile X Factor singer and mode, Chloe Jasmine, and collaborating on a music video with another, as yet unveiled, Simon Cowell singing protege.

It all started with a chance introduction to London-based House of iKons founder, Savita Kaye, who launched her unique platform – supported by the Prince's Trust – in support of emerging, talented designers across the globe in 2014.

"I was introduced to Savita through a friend I met when I was 'Miss United Nations Europe' and after I had completed my HND in Fashion and Textiles Design at North West Regional College," Lynsey explains. "Unfortunately, at the time, I didn't realise what an opportunity that actually was.

"I was concentrating on the Haus of MowHawk label – MowHawk had always been my father's nickname for me – and I had just graduated and didn't think it was the right time.

"It turned out that what I had passed up was a pre-Oscars fashion show in LA with House of iKons designers from across the world. I could have kicked myself, so next time the invitation came, I grabbed it with both hands.

"It was a lesson learned – whatever plans you may have for yourself, if something unexpected comes along, just go with it and don't look back."

She has since taken her own advice, but still acknowledges that hard work, grit and determination lie at the core of a fashionably temperamental career which, when stripped away from the bright lights of the runway, can be a lonely place at times.

"I have been very lucky," she says, "but I have also experienced long nights working into the wee small hours with a growing sense of panic. It has been an uphill battle at times, with financial uncertainty, and you have to be fairly thick-skinned to shake off the rejections."

But, having 'stuck with it', her glamorous, trademark fairytale gowns – with just a hint of outlandishness – 'Daring to be Different' is her label's mantra, after all – were among a select number to debut at The Four Seasons Hotel in Beijing earlier this year after House of iKons launched in China.

"The feedback from China so far has been fantastic," Lynsey enthuses, "and collections from the top six designers from the London event were covered extensively by Vogue China and Harpers Bazaar China.

"I was especially pleased with the comments for what everyone calls my 'mermaid' dress' which is an iridescent, sequinned number and a real 'show-stopper'.

"It was a nod to 'red carpet' mermaid chic, but, I do realise that in the real world, we don't have that many big events to wear these type of gowns to, so I am now concentrating on a more viable range with a cheaper price tag.

"I am having talks at the minute with some high street chains including Topshop and Selfridges, so we'll see what comes of that. I started out with high-end ladies occasional wear, then added menswear and accessories.

"In November I have my first wedding – a bridal dress and four bridesmaids – so there's a lot going on. I have come a long way since cutting up my mother's curtains as a four year-old to make outfits for my Barbie, but the passion is still as intense."

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Lynsey’s Haus Of MoHawk collection features in the Fashion Fest Fashion Show at the Guildhall, Derry, on Saturday, November 19. Free tickets can be booked by emailing fashionfest@derrystrabane.com

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