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Fine Print

Spirited London-based womenswear designer Katie Ann McGuigan is fearless in her use of print, fashioning everyday pieces that are anything but ordinary.

By Lauren Mang

A look from Katie Ann McGuigan’s AW20 collection features a nylon coat atop a tulle dress, patterned silk shirt, and ’80s-inspired joggers. Geometric-printed shoes in a matching green hue complete the ensemble.

If you had to choose three words to best describe a Katie Ann McGuigan devotee, they would be: Must. Love. Print.

(And then love it some more.) The London-based designer—who, just one year after graduating from the University of Westminster, debuted her first-ever womenswear collection (AW17) during London Fashion Week—indeed covers her designs with patterns galore: silk crepe de chine and organza

digitally printed dresses; skirts and tops in geometric patterns that evoke a modern chevron; hand-printed puffer jackets atop layers of delicate tulle. “In my world, fabric can make a garment,” the Irish-born McGuigan says. “When printed, fabric can completely transform an idea or a look. Working with print is a hands-on process that I have fallen in love with—from the initial print design, to the printing methods and options, to cutting and seeing the finished garment.”

The boldly printed and colorful pieces in her AW17 collection nabbed her the 2017 Merit Award from the United Kingdom–based international design showcase Fashion Scout. The award is given each season to an exceptionally talented rising fashion design star and provides business development support for their fledgling brands. That same year, McGuigan took home an Absolute Prize for the Most Creative United Kingdom-based international design showcase Fashion Scout. The award is given each season to an exceptionally talented rising fashion design star and provides business development support for their fledgling brands. That same year, McGuigan took home an Absolute Prize for the Most Creative

Design, it seems, was McGuigan’s destined métier. And she knew it from the beginning. “Growing up in an environment that was filled with hardworking craftspeople—my parents

run [Northern Ireland brand Orior Furniture]—was the most integral part to being creative,” she says. “I always loved the fabrics I saw, and watching something being created.” That love led her to study—and earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in—fashion design at university. She interned at New York-based fashion brand Marc Jacobs, which offered an insider’s look into the well-oiled fashion machine, which she credits as an invaluable, eye-opening experience. “I was able to see how everyone’s work schedules interlinked, and [how] efforts came together to create the final product,” she says. “To this day, that is still my favorite part—even in my own studio. It’s the symbiotic working of so many different departments, people, and entities that I strive for, both with my work and my brand.” She also landed in the print department (naturally) at British label McQ by Alexander McQueen, where she had the opportunity to experiment with different print techniques to create fresh ideas and samples.

A body suit is layered with a dress, silk top, long leather coat, and scarf.

This past February, during London Fashion Week, McGuigan debuted her latest collection, AW20, featuring designs inspired by the works of Irish street photographer Tom Wood—particularly his snapshots of working-class people from the early 1980s in Liverpool, England. Prints, colors, graphics, and items (plastic bags and bright 1980s-era sportswear, for example) captured in Wood’s subjects’ furnishings and homes were her muse, inspiring a modern chevron print on skirts and tops, and jogger-and-hoodie sets with a decidedly ’80s twist. Her past collections reference more of these obscure yet powerful subcultures: 1970s footballers and Japanese bōsōzoku biker women. In SS20, neon pink, vivid teal, and citrusy shades of orange dominated flowing skirts and dresses and highwaisted

and wide-legged trousers—all in punchy patterns—recalling the heyday of Florida’s roller-discos in

the early ’70s. “I draw inspiration from subcultures, worlds, and times I have never been a part of, almost as though I am an outsider looking in,” McGuigan explains. “Picking subjects that have aspects of color, print, and garment/apparel that inspire me is the deciding factor, and it allows me to bring them to light and integrate them into my world.”

FROM LEFT: A look features a bodysuit, a silk dress, an organza dress, a leather top with a modern

chevron print, and shoes; a patterned organza coat tops a tulle dress, leather skirt, and

knit sweater; a bold leather dress is accented with a jacket, hoodie, patterned scarf, and shoes; tailored trousers are combined with a leather dress, organza dress, silk top, and a blazer.

McGuigan’s next collection for SS21 is currently in the works, though she’s not yet revealed which wild bunch is potentially serving as inspiration. She’s also collaborating with her parents’ furniture business—which opened a New York City showroom in 2019—and is launching a second collection. Whatever she’s working on, her fashion design brand remains firmly rooted in a love for London: All designs are

made in London, and she secures local sewing technicians, pattern drafters, shoemakers, and factories, and sources most fabrics from the area. “It seems like the creatives in London really love what they do—even if there are hurdles along their journey—and therefore work incredibly hard at their craft,” she says. “Everyone here is ambitious and has their own style and aesthetic. It makes London so unique in regard to the fashion scene—anything is possible.”

Images courtesy Katie Ann McGuigan

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