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NCAD Alumni Stories: Lia Cowan, Fashion Designer

22 Jun 2023, 13:24

Sewing supplies

Name: Lia Cowan

Current Career : Fashion Designer

Graduation Year: 2017

Discipline : Sculpture & Education

Location: Dublin

What career path did you want to follow as a child?

Being an artist was always my first choice career. I’ve had an obsession with art since I was able to hold a pencil. Both my aunties on my father’s side were practicing artists and designers, which had a huge influence on me during my childhood. To see them flourishing in their fields, inspired me to pursue a career in art.

Why did you decide to study at National College of Art & Design?

NCAD to me is the holy grail of art colleges in Ireland. As I was interested in Fine Art, I knew there was no other college for me. Having visited NCAD on numerous occasions during my time in school, the Sculpture department always felt like the right fit for me.

How did you develop your career towards your current job or practice?

After leaving NCAD, I taught Art in secondary schools for 3 years. I loved my students and enjoyed the work, but something was missing. After careful consideration, I decided I wanted to revisit my creative practice and subsequently moved into the world of Fashion Design.

I then completed two years of fashion in Sallynoggin College in Dublin. I also completed two fantastic fashion internships with Natalie B Coleman and Roisin Gartland. From there, I began to develop my craft, mixing my knowledge of sculpture with my love of Fashion Design.

Since starting my brand, I have won the Longines Irish Champions Young Designer of the Year Award. I have also won a Design and Crafts Council of Ireland Future Makers Award. I can’t stress how important it is for young designers and makers to put themselves out there and take part in these juried design competitions.

What is the one experience during your time at NCAD that has informed you most in your career and work to date?

Putting together my final year show, for sure. It was the first time I really felt that I was on display, which made me want to push myself more and more. Inviting the viewer into the space also gives the work another dimension, which I found so interesting. I try to implement this into my work as a designer, creating an experience for the wearer that can be quite performative and playful.

If you were chatting with current NCAD students today what is the one piece of advice you would offer?

I would suggest that you must play, explore and respond. It took me so long to relax in NCAD before really being able to experiment in my creative work. I was always caught up in the “secondary school Art mindset” of things having to be perfect all the time. The real work comes from making mistakes and having endless curiosity.

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