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Who is Sean McGirr?

The headstrong menswear designer talks to us about working with Charlie Le Mindu, what influences him and his own early adolescent start in fashion

It’s no coincidence that Candy Nippon in Tokyo and Immense in Taipei – two of Japan’s most closely watched boutiques – have Sean McGirr’s A/W 2011 collection hanging from the clothes hangers. Titled ‘The Adolescent Years’, it draws from the Oriental kimono silhouette and shares a sensibility with Japanese fashion that gives it an uncanny autonomy. More specifically, the collection captures the pureness of the teenage spirit as Sean witnessed it in an exhibition that made an indelible impression on him.

Drawings made by children at the time of the A-bomb disaster in Hiroshima formed the initial impulse to what is also Sean’s graduate collection. Inspired by these graphics, fellow London College of Fashion grad Viet Tran, a fashion illustrator, they designed original appliqué patches that decorate the mainly bleak colour scheme interrupted by blue gingham checks.

‘The Adolescent Years’ is a considered examination of the overwrought, juvenile aesthetic that arises during the years when a boy begins to form his identity through dressing – exploring the possibilities which a courageous way of dressing can provide. This signature aesthetic, a sign of resistance and self-assertion, is a clear presence in Sean’s commissioned work as well, adding his own portion of idiosyncracy to a collaboration with Charlie Le Mindu and stylist Anna Trevelyan for Le Mindu’s menswear line. 

Can you remember when you first knew you wanted to be a fashion designer?

Sean McGirr: I painted and played with textiles and materials as a child. Then I eventually got a sewing machine at 13 or 14 - I started by taking apart mens garments and re-interpreting things like fits, sleeves and pockets.

What is your angle on menswear? (What do you feel you can add to it?)

Sean McGirr: It´s about eclectism and wearability. I take a subversive approach – emphasising garment design so as to communicate an aesthetic about identity. I like creating a visual language through my clothes – referencing Eastern and Western cultures, cinema and music. 

Where does your affinity with Japan find its origin?

Sean McGirr: My fondness for Japan just came from travelling around the country and spending a lot of time in Tokyo. Their traditional garment culture and the people – a lot of young people have a sense of freedom about clothing. Many consumers tend to follow trends so I love how young people in Tokyo don't seem to feel that kind of pressure and don’t feel the need to fit in. 

What’s the progression you feel you’ve made with A/W11 as compared to S/S10?

Sean McGirr: With the collection in stores now, I wanted to emphasise outerwear and accessories. I looked into how sleeve insertions and functional elements could inform the overall silhouette. I feel like I´m refining my style more on this collection.

What and/or who has influenced your style?

Sean McGirr: Travelling, teenage and juvenile culture. Lots of people in my life have left an imprint on my style. My family, the artist Kevin Gaffney, Karen Wisdom, Shun Watanabe..

How did your collaboration with Charlie Le Mindu come about?

Sean McGirr: Charlie had asked me a few months back if I would be interested in working on the menswear for his Spring collection. Then after a few meetings with him I went to Taiwan for a separate job but worked on the designs over there.

What was your input, what was his and how did Anna round it out?

Sean McGirr: It was really collaborative. Charlie and Anna are just very creative and free-minded so we coined the menswear pretty organically, following the design process I worked on the patterns and final garments with a small team until we showed the collection in Paris.