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Parnell Mooney AW20Photography Julia Monsell, styling Flo Arnold

Ex-MAN designer Rory Parnell Mooney is doing fashion his own way

After taking a break from the industry’s demanding cycle, the Irish-born creative is back with a sexy new collection

The fast pace of fashion and stress that comes with that have been hot topics of conversation within the industry for years. Designers and brands put out collection after collection, season after season, seemingly with no end – it’s no wonder some of the top names are taking time off due to burnout

After deciding to take a break from the continuous cycle, London-based Irish designer Rory Parnell Mooney – who you might recognise as an alum of Fashion East’s MAN roster – returned with a new collection last season, with the the time off giving him a chance to hone the foundations of his brand and concentrate on who he was actually designing for. “When I was doing collections before, I was always trying to completely reinvent what the shirt is,” he explains. “But the longevity of an idea feels so much more positive. It’s the idea of having pieces that are never going to go away, but are always getting better.” 

It seems like a redundant point to make when talking about fashion, but the clothes are extremely wearable, and sexy, too. The drawstring tops from last season are updated with peekaboo holes to reveal a flash of chest or shoulder. For the more sophisticated, tailored looks with sash ties across the waist and silk shirts that cling to the body might be more your thing. Love a bold print? Perhaps the mish-mash of tartans and a matching hat.

“At the end of the day, I love clothes, I don’t love fashion,” he muses. “I want to wear something fucking cool and I want to wear it all the time every day and have somebody on the street think: ‘That person looks cool’. I don’t want to exist within a fashion state.” 

Evolving from last season’s offerings, the vests for AW20 appear again in tie-dye mesh, the jeans updated in a shiny patent faux leather with tear-away detailing. “Somebody could grab that double D-ring on the back and pull it and the whole trouser would come off in a fabulous J.Lo Hustlers moment,” the designer jokes. 

Other references – “funny little gay ones,” he says – include Halloween celebrations at home in Ireland, drinking in parks after dark as a teenager, and the ‘I have a hole in my stomach’ scene from Death Becomes Her, which inspired the peekaboo tops in the offering. “It could be quite serious and fashion,” Parnell-Mooney says, “But a lot of the references come from trying to do something a bit bad or on the edge.” For the tuned homosexual eye, the collection images – photographed by Julia Monsell and styled by Flo Arnold – immediately evoke a sense of cruising. 

“The way I’m working is a lot less stress and pressure, a lot less of me saying ‘This is what everyone else is doing, so this is what it has to be’. I just have this confidence now that I don’t care and I want to make stuff I like” – Rory Parnell Mooney 

Now intent on doing things in his own time, the designer confirms the move has given him the confidence to do what is right for himself first and foremost. “The way I’m working is a lot less stress and pressure, a lot less of me saying ‘This is what everyone else is doing, so this is what it has to be’,” he muses. “I just have this confidence now that I don’t care and I want to make stuff I like, that other people will like, buy, and wear – it’s not about everything else.” This conscious way of working has also given him the chance to work more closely on sourcing sustainable materials, rather than using jersey for one season and then moving on to a completely different one the next. 

Parnell-Mooney is applying this to his next collection, which he has already begun thinking about. “There was so much stuff from this season that didn’t go in because it didn’t fit with the rest or we didn’t totally love it,” he explains. “So, what I’m going to do now is go back and start from that. It will be an evolution again, but more extreme versions of the things that already exist.”