It's rare you see a young designer veer off the runway format to do something profoundly different on the London Fashion Week schedule. In most instances, it’s a 15-minute catwalk showcasing a series of looks in motion or it's a presentation, where audiences can drop in and out to get a closer look at the new collection on offer.

But this season Sinéad O'Dwyer did something rather out of the ordinary. Welcoming the fashion pack to the classroom where she learned her craft at the Royal College of Art, Sinead hosted a conversation. It was an enlightening glimpse behind the seams of her craft-driven collection, the inspirations behind it and how she continues to strive for a more size-inclusive fashion industry.

We caught up with Sinéad ahead of the show to find out more…

Tell us a bit more about your SS24 collection…
The new collection is a continuation of last season in terms of techniques we're developing. I've always been obsessed with, uniforms, pyjamas, and tracksuits and the way they are combined. The haphazard way that you dress when you get home after school is such a clear memory of mine. I grew up in the countryside. I wasn't really going anywhere public after school. That way of dressing is a combination of everything.

Working in this way provided a lot of space for me to continue experimenting with all types of garments for multiple sizes. I really enjoy design development for lots of different body types. Different chest and shoulder proportions and planning how to create various silhouettes is what excites me the most. And there's lots of scope within those categories to play with internal supports and construction methods. In terms of craft, there are so many interesting techniques that come with both uniforms and loungewear, which I enjoy investigating, researching and figuring out how to combine.

How does London and your community inspire you to create?
I think it’s all about the people. You can do so much street casting and there is so much diversity. My community are very inspiring but is also a support system, that’s one of the biggest advantages and being part of NEWGEN, we're all in the same boat. Building a new brand is so difficult and also very exciting, so it's just nice to share that with other people in the same situation.

I work a lot with a lot of other artists, and designers, so there's always this feeling of collaboration. Here everyone is excited to be building something new together so that's very inspiring.

How have you managed to keep your head above water and stay motivated to create beautiful clothes?
I think I'm an extremely hopeful person and I think when anyone is starting a business, they need to be super hopeful, even when things go wrong. Getting NEWGEN, definitely accelerated how much I needed to focus on my revenue generation. But it's good because it's helping me get to a place with buyers where I can develop the business.

Especially with my inclusive-sized ranges, trying to figure out how to have the infrastructure to not just make pieces for the show, but to continue to try to develop it for production [is a challenge]. I’ve learnt how to have conversations with buyers and retailers about how to work together to offer a larger range of sizes and styles.

I feel like it's such an exciting thing to try and figure out because the industry is not built for that. There's no point in me spending all of this time on the design development for size 20 and people can’t buy a size 20.

What recent changes have you witnessed in terms of size-inclusivity in the industry?
The last few seasons, we've had some buyers who bought up to size 20, which has been really great. It was an amazing opportunity to get feedback from customers, get the clothes on people's bodies and have those conversations.

I think there are a lot of female designers trying to push for more inclusive sizing for production and that's amazing. But I do feel like it's an issue of speed, like with making fashion more sustainable, I just don't think that we can expect to have the same speed of industry, while at the same time thinking about multiple different bodies and also sustainable fabrics.

Working in the fashion industry is so intense without being ethical. Either we need to do less seasons or fewer styles per collection, for proper change to happen.

Can you tell me a bit more about some of the craft techniques that you've used in the new collection?
I started the Spring/Summer 2024 collection with the stain harnesses, which are inspired by the construction of Shibori knot tying. A big focus for this season is pinafore with criss-cross constructions. We have a new full-body suit of our knitted tights from last season, which we’ve embellished with Swarovski crystals.

Something that I'm particularly excited about is a new sleeveless, tuxedo, leotard shirt. We did a fitted shirt two seasons ago, and we’ve reimagined it as a bodysuit so that you can lift your arms or go braless when you wear it.

Why do you think it’s more important than ever to celebrate craft?
I think now more than ever because of fast fashion you can get so many more copies of designs. So you have to think about what makes a garment special? Craft is so important to me, I just love the process of making and I think that’s what gives something a real sense of specialness, because otherwise, what is the difference between say, Zara and Prada?

Something can be a very good copy but it won't be in terms of finishings, composition and craft. I think people are more interested in the story, making and process and that is a massive focus for us.

Why did you choose to move away from the traditional show format?
It's been so amazing with all the press, we've gotten for the runways, and it's been so exciting to get to work with so many different models. I just thought based on what the brand needs right now I wanted to focus on craft. We put so much labour into each piece, especially with the knit and stretch pieces, and we wanted to be able to show those off. I also wanted to make what we champion more of a conversation. I want people to hear what I've learnt in the process and hope they can take something away from it too.