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Sun 14 Jun 2015 11:14 AM

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Five Minutes with... fashion designer Lorcan Mullany

The man behind many of Princess Diana’s dresses on his visit to Dubai

Five Minutes with... fashion designer Lorcan Mullany

Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, and Taylor Swift have one thing in common: they were all dressed by Lorcan Mullany.

The 63-year-old eveningwear designer worked with high-end British fashion salon Bellville Sassoon in 1987 before branching out on his own.

Though he doesn’t produce much clothing these days, especially since his collaboration with British occasion wear Jacques Vert for its 2015 winter/autumn collection.

In Dubai to promote the partnership, Mullany spoke to Arabian Business on how Dubai’s fashion industry reminds him of America, what he loves about Arab men’s style, and why the beauty of Middle Eastern women is by far his favourite.

It’s not your first time in Dubai, but is there anywhere here in particular that you’d like to go to? I’d like to go up on the high building [Burj Khalifa]. I love it, it’s so fine, kind of spindly. It’s quite something.

You’re known to have designed many dresses for Princess Diana. How did it feel the first time you saw the Princess wearing your designs? It felt wonderful. I’m not really a star struck kind of person, but with her, I was. She had a certain, I don’t know, star quality, something that made you stand up and look at her. Right from the beginning, she came to us just before she got married. And even then she was young and shy; that was part of the charm, you know? And then she became this kind of star really. But she was always really nice, very kind of normal; as normal as she could be. And always very appreciative of everything you did. If we ever did a dress or whatever you did, she’d always write and say thank you, every time.

You mentioned that you’re not a star struck kind of person. Why is that? I grew up in Ireland on a farm. So you know, that kind of thing just didn’t exist [for us]. My parents weren’t interested in that. We lived on a farm, it was quite isolated.

Do you miss that? No. In general, I’m a pretty quiet kind of person anyway. I’ve always been happy in the workroom, designing, working with the pattern cutters and the sowers. That’s where I am at my happiest.

When did you know that you wanted to be a fashion designer? Very early. My mother had a store, which was unusual in those days, women didn’t normally work so much, but she did. So she would take me with her if she was buying anything.

I remember she took me once when she was buying something for a wedding. And she showed me and asked me ‘which one?’ and I said ‘the blue one.’ And then she just turned to the assistant and said, ‘he knows.’

I kind of grew up then with that certainty about clothes, a certain confidence. I mean academically I was hopeless, so, there was really not much choice. It was either farming or clothes.

Is there anyone from the Arab world who you’d like to see wear your designs? I’m sure everybody says this but I’d love to see the Queen of Jordan. She’s quite amazing. We dressed the previous Queen, Queen Noor, many years ago.

Who or what is the inspiration behind your designs, especially your most recent collection with Jacques Vert? The thing I always apply to everything I do is I try to make things simple. But, simple with interesting. So it’s always with the cut. You have to achieve everything from the cut.

If you can do that, that’s good, but it’s not easy. Because I don’t really do embroidery or anything much in general, so nothing is applied, it’s all got to come from the way you cut it. You got to create something from the cut. That’s my constant thing that I do.

Is there a certain element that’s always present in your designs? I like draping, wrapping the body or draping. I like that.

Is there a Middle Eastern designer that you admire? I like Elie Saab. He’s really good. That’s a really obvious one, but I’ve always liked him.

What do you think of Dubai’s fashion industry? It reminds me a little bit of America, in that for the customer, you have everything here. Everything possible is here. There’s a huge choice. It’s very competitive.

I used to sell a lot in America, and it’s just the customer has everything they could possibly want, from the whole world, there on offer. It’s a bit like that here.

Do you think they need to do something to improve further? I don’t think so, no. I mean they have the best of everybody here.

I work as an interior designer as well. My office is in Knightsbridge. And I see a lot of Arabs, especially during the summer there. The women you don’t see so much because they’re covered. But the men, they are so well dressed. And they’re getting it so right. They’re very tasteful. I’m really impressed by that.

If you can name one special thing about the look of Middle Eastern women, what would it be? I just love the look. I love dark hair and I love the eyes and the makeup. It’s my look, I like dark hair more than blonde, anytime. So it’s really my taste, which is very akin to the Middle Eastern look. And the hair, they got amazing hair.

You know when they wear the [sheila] over their head? And their hair is built up? I like that.

Do you have any general advice for women on how to dress well? I always have the same advice: keep it simple. That’s the best advice for everything.

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