At Home With... Irish Designer and Style Guru, Aisling Kavanagh

If you never considered yourself a hairband girl, you most certainly will now.

Fashion design graduate, entrepreneur and vibrant style queen, Aisling Kavanagh is a talented creative who showcases the fun side of fashion.

Diverging from the neutral-toned trends du jour, Aisling proves there is power in colour and it doesn’t need to be shied away from so often – guilty as charged!

A delight to follow on Instagram, Aisling’s energised, flirty and super-feminine outfits are the perfect style inspiration. 

Taking the revival of the hairband trend to a whole new level, Aisling’s bespoke and embellished creations are custom made and the ultimate timeless staple. However, Aisling’s versatility as a designer isn’t limited to hairbands, she recently shared a charming collection of bespoke oversized bows which are ideal for brightening up any outfit. We sense a trend coming on.

As we continue to tango with lockdown and find our bearings in the new normal, we caught up with Aisling to discuss business, what she has learned from quarantine and why hairbands are the best accessory - but you already knew that by now.

How has lockdown been treating you? 

There was a time when we wished for things to slow down so that we can create memories and spend time with our loved ones. But, who would have thought that it would happen this way?

I enjoy a busy lifestyle. Constantly working until all hours, running from place to place and never really having time to sit still. I can’t help but look back and realise I had become so used to the craziness that I didn’t really see how crazy it all was. This time is a way to pause and maybe get a chance to do all the things I never had time to do.

With lockdown, I’ve really taken a step back and tried not to force myself into creativity. Some days it’s hard and during those days I try to focus on something else. I’ve been trying to do some sort of workout at home every day and although it’s not easy, I’m grateful for them as they definitely make me feel better. I also think getting into that good routine has its benefits when things go back to normal as I’ll feel more comfortable.

Your designs are absolutely incredible, why did you decide to launch a bespoke hairband business?

It all happened naturally, to be honest. I started making the hairbands for myself, my friends and family and just putting up the pretty imagery on Instagram and then people started writing to me asking to buy them, which I never imagined would happen, and from there it kind of took off.

There was so much interest and so many people were willing to support me and my designs, it gave me such encouragement to do something I’m really passionate about. I’m so lucky to work with such beautiful things too.

How do you keep yourself inspired creatively? 

Sometimes you can’t keep yourself motivated, no matter how hard you try. I think you can’t always force yourself to be inspired or creatively motivated, even if you consciously want to.

There are times where you simply have to step back and relax. Sometimes stepping back for a moment is the best way forward and there are times where it’s like a burst of energy I want to unleash.

To keep myself inspired I try to listen to music or a podcast that I love, I feel it can really increase my focus and boost my mood.

During quarantine, while I’m out on my walk, I find that’s the best time to think of new ideas and what I can do. I’m also always reading fashion blogs, magazines, scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest. I think everyone gets so inspired on Pinterest, it’s such a great app!

I also love being surrounded by creatives so we can bounce ideas off each other and encourage one another, I’ve really missed that during quarantine.

When you are having a hard day, what do you do to improve your mood? 

Sure it happens to us all, some days it’s like walking on a cloud and other days we want the day to just end.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed with work or stressed I like to remove myself from the situation and do a workout or go on a walk. Whenever I do a workout I completely forget everything else that’s happening and just solely focus on the movement at hand. I also love working out with my sister, we really boost each other up and just have a laugh with it. It has really helped me get through quarantine.

From a business perspective, how have you approached the craziness of the pandemic? 

At the beginning with everything up in the air I felt a bit all over the place, but as the days went on and I wasn’t listening to the news everyday I focused more on my brand. Researching my fabrics, how to improve my skills on making the hairbands and bespoke bows. Though I’m just starting out and have a long way to go, I’m striving to ensure that each piece is made sustainably and ethically. A lot of the beading I use for the hairbands is old costume jewellery or old buttons that I’ve collected over the years from friends and family. I also have many brides enquiring about bespoke hairbands. To make the hairband extra special, I can customise it by using offcuts from their wedding dress or perhaps a family heirloom to add to the band. This really compliments the dress and makes it a one of a kind, I’m also giving it a new lease of life and that’s the main focus of my brand.

What has been the most effective way for you to promote your brand? 

Social media is such an incredible platform for small businesses like myself, to get the name out there. I have customers coming from the UK, the US and Australia. I never imagined that could be possible and it’s all down to the power of social media and word of mouth.

Through social media, I’ve gotten incredible opportunities to showcase my designs.

I got the chance to make haute couture headpieces for a showcase over in London with the Irish designer, Umit Kutluk. I used his couture fabrics and embellishment to make ornate headpieces - it took roughly 15 hours to make each one. 

I’ve also showcased at some events in Dublin too. It’s such a pinch-me moment to see my designs on the models at the shows.

Your personal style is so gorgeous, what would you say to those looking to incorporate more colour into their wardrobes? 

One thing that I have never been shy of is adding colour to my closet. I love dressing up in bright, beautiful coloured garments. Recently everyone is talking about colour psychology which is a study that every colour creates a different emotion or feeling. Like the colour green is associated with being calm and peaceful. So whenever I dress in colour I do find my mood dramatically changes in such a positive way.

So while colours like black, brown and grey are easier to wear, why not add some colour into your wardrobe to match the bold and bright elements of your personality?

If you’re nervous about adding colour to your wardrobe maybe start off with playing around with accessories. One of the best accessories to utilise is bags. Adding that pop of colour to your outfit with a bag can really polish the look without it being too over the top. Clothes are there for you to express your personality and feel good so why not have fun with it.

What is your secret to capturing the perfect Instagram shot? 

The help of many friends and family! If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be getting that perfect Instagram shot. But also, getting the perfect picture for Instagram takes time and patience. 

I always take my photos on my phone which I always keep with me so I never miss a good photo opportunity. For me, lighting is key and the foundation of a good photo. Understanding how to use light is the first and most important rule of getting a great photo. Too much light can make the subject look washed out, too little and the dark photo doesn’t grab your attention. 

Also, being a designer made me kind of be a symmetry freak. I pay close attention to every detail and try to place things perfectly for the shot. I always set the scene when doing flat lays. Once I’ve chosen the items that create the look I search for the right background and then play with placement. To edit my photos I love using the VSCO app.

Have you been enjoying any tv shows during quarantine? 

I think it’s safe to say every single Irish person has been enjoying Normal People. With such a hype surrounding it, I hopped on the bandwagon and haven’t stopped talking about it.

Also, a show I can watch time and time again is Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I like to say it’s a mix between Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model purely because it combines fashion, creativity and entertainment. I get so inspired watching it.

What advice would you give to aspiring fashion entrepreneurs? 

Fashion is such a broad industry. Try to find your niche within it. It’s also a tough industry to get into and requires a lot of hard work, dedication and consistency. If you’re up for the challenge, as cliché as it sounds, just go for it.

Become knowledgeable in the field you want to get into. I find internships are key - you get to see what it’s like to work in a fast-paced fashion environment, you see how the real industry works and you learn skills you can take with you in the future. Also, be sure to ask questions during your internships. People love to give advice, and being successful often means learning from those who have already achieved their goals.

As I said before, social media is such an incredible platform to get your name out there – use that to your advantage! Put up beautiful images of your designs and be consistent. Hopefully, you will then start to see results and get the recognition you deserve.

What has life in lockdown taught you?

Since I’ve had a chance to reflect this past couple of weeks, I’ve realised how quickly life can pass you by. I’ve started to realise that yes, busy life is fun and I wouldn’t change that for the world, but with this slower-paced life, we’ve got a chance to catch our breath and have the time to pay closer attention to what’s going on. Something so simple, and previously unappreciated as an evening stroll can actually be the highlight of your day.

I know lots of us are probably sick of the Zoom calls right now, but it has been really nice to be able to catch up with friends more – something I was trying to be better at but was always ‘too busy’ to chat. It’s a new habit I want to bring with me after lockdown.

Lastly, the main thing I want to change in my life post-quarantine is the amount of stress I deal with. Let’s face it, we’ve all learned many lessons over the last few months. Lessons about life, about ourselves, how we react to things and how we cope. One thing which stood out to me is that stressing and worrying over little things is just exhausting. These little things will always work out so there’s no need to be getting overly-stressed.

Besides, life's too short and will be very different once all this is over. That being said, I’m looking forward to the ‘new normal’.

Main image by @aislingkavanagh_

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