Bridal Fashion with a Twist: The Artistry of Thurley

Helen O'Connor's bridal fashion

Thurley, founded in 2006, has been exploring the contradiction between masculine and femininity in bridal fashion, and power and fragility. Designer Helen O’Connor returns to ancient Egypt with Empire’s Autumn/Winter 2017 collection, featuring armor-inspired designs and intricate details. Thurley has established itself as a pioneer in elaborate, ethereal workmanship for the past ten years, blending sophisticated, current style with old, skilled workmanship. The upscale brand currently controls the Australian fashion market and is sold in outlets nationwide and online. Helen O’Connor shares her early experiences, current inspirations, and aspirations for the future.

She explains that her first creation was dressing schoolmates in dresses inspired by sausage casings for school formals, parties, and races. She explains that her signature piece was made of half a meter of Lincraft lycra, one freehand seam sewn up on the Janome, and a strap worn as a halter neck.

Thurley has taken us on journeys through time and across continents since its start in 2006, taking us from the crystalline seas of the Amalfi Coast to lavish regal ballrooms. Designer Helen O’Connor introduces us to the monuments of ancient Egypt this season, where alluring and courageous kings battled for supremacy. As the brand explores the contradiction between masculine and femininity, power and fragility, Thurley’s elaborate patterns and ornate details are back in Empire’s Autumn/Winter 2017 collection. Armour-inspired designs are made translucent and weightless through an unusual fabric merging, while slender, rigid scuba fabric is hand-appliquéd with delicate embroidery and beaded.

Thurley has established itself as a pioneer in elaborate, ethereal workmanship during the past ten years. Since her 2006 collection debuted at L’Oreal Fashion Week and caught the attention of the industry, Helen O’Connor has campaigned to revive the idea of fashion as an artisan’s skill. Her designs blend sophisticated, current style with old, skilled workmanship in a time when designers are under pressure to produce work as quickly and efficiently as possible. The upscale brand presently controls the Australian fashion market. It is sold in outlets all around the country and online, and it has aspirations to grow its presence abroad.

Return of design got the chance to talk with Helen O’Connor, the famous woman behind the sought designs.

Helen, your creations are renowned for their lavish and detailed workmanship. What was the idea for this workmanship, and where did you learn it?

My grandma thinks I was born with a taste for complex and lavish details since her ancestors were Russian. I’ve always been fascinated to the baroque style, a time when artists and craftsmen held their job in the highest esteem and considered it to be an art form. The modern world has mostly forgotten about this as everyone looks for quicker and more profitable ways to produce clothing. Since every collection brings back a piece of the past, I see my work as the antidote to this movement. Since this mindset is unusual in today’s industry and my customers see their wardrobes as collections of treasures rather than one-season wonders, I think they are drawn to it.

What was your very first creation?

I quickly established a small business and was soon dressing all of my schoolmates in dresses inspired by sausage casings for school formals, parties, and the races. My signature piece was made of half a meter of Lincraft lycra, one freehand seam sewn up on the Janome, and a strap worn as a halter neck. They would slip out of the house with the sausage casings hidden behind jackets and sweaters, which were promptly abandoned upon arrival, in defiance of their moms’ pleadings to not leave the home in such scantly attired clothing. The jackets were also helpful since they could be knotted around their waists to protect their modesty when the single seam always broke on the dance floor. For my hens day last year, my friends really created a fake and made me wear it the entire day; it was embarrassing and not something you can get away with once your 20s are through! But I put it all aside when I came upon this amusing stepping stone that led me to where I am right now.

What does the term “fashion” signify to you?

My biggest interest and my vocation are both fashion. I hope my ability to integrate the two into a career will continue indefinitely. The way a person dresses may reveal a lot about their personality and serve as a wonderful form of nonverbal communication. I admire how clothes can change someone’s personality and how it can boost self-esteem or make a bad day better.

Helen O'Connor bridal fashion

Give a more thorough description of the collection you will be displaying at VAMFF. What kinds of things inspire you when you’re creating a new bridal fashion collection?

Like a bowerbird, I enjoy gathering inspiration from various sources, including fabrics, trimmings, gems, and vintage artifacts I come across while traveling. I gather things that interest me until a spark happens, at which point I start pursuing a narrative that develops the season’s tale. Additionally, I get a lot of inspiration from my customers, and I constantly modify my work to meet their needs and preferences. I use client input to build each collection while simultaneously taking lessons from the previous one.

The women of ancient cultures who excelled to become renowned leaders in male-dominated society served as the inspiration for the 2017 Thurley Empire collection. The most notable items in the collections were motivated by historical individuals like Cleopatra and Nefertiti who battled their way to the top via brave and creative leadership. One of the major topics in this collection is the contrast between femininity and masculinity, and leaders need to strike a balance between the two traits.

To satisfy and wow my clients, I’ve made it my aim to set my handwriting apart from the mass market; every print, lace, and stitch has been created especially for me. Each piece of clothing has been painstakingly made on the stand and comes to life when it is worn by a lady. I believe the buyer will sense my love and passion for each product. The Empire line aims to give the women who wear it the self-assurance they need to stand out and make a difference.

Your wedding dress was hand-made a year ago using countless thousands of tiny gems, fine tulle, and elaborate lace. Please describe the situation and let me know how long it took to make the outfit

The whole thing was rather unnerving; even though I went in with confidence, there were times when I questioned what I had gotten myself into and thought I would never be able to finish the assignment by the deadline. It took almost a year to finish from the basic idea, and when I wrapped the beads around the body to the end of the train on the stand, it really came to life. It was wonderful to have someone to bounce ideas off of and who could assist me in bringing my craziest dreams to reality. I worked closely with my patternmaker, who has vast expertise with bridal dress. I was creating two collections for Thurley at the time, and my outfit served as some of the inspiration for the spring collection. Many of my collections, in my opinion, depict my life at the time. It got to the point where, in order to finish it, I had to bead it in front of my husband (while he sat on the other side of the room and tried not to look)! Work for a designer is never finished! The previous evening, I finished the flower girls’ outfits, the attendants’ dresses, and the veil, literally stitching on the final bead.

Describe a normal day in your life

I workout in the gardens that surround my house after walking my dog in the morning to be ready for the day. Around nine in the morning, I get to work, where we conduct hourly fit sessions using a fit model to polish outfits. Meetings with fabric suppliers and my fabric development team may take up much of a day because the bulk of our textiles are designed in-house. My best way of coming up with fresh ideas is to mold lace or appliqué around a mannequin’s torso. Then, I work with my pattern maker and sample maker to turn my bizarre concepts into wearable, marketable clothing. My job requires just as much problem-solving as it does design work because my day isn’t always packed with issues from the present production and is frequently filled with challenges from the future. You never know when the next amazing idea will hit, so I frequently carry my notebook home and draw till the wee hours of the morning.

Which city in the world inspires you the most?

Before I proposed to my boyfriend in 2015, I traveled to Rome with him for a week to explore the intriguing artifacts, eat delicious Italian cuisine, and visit museums, galleries, and monuments. Rome, with its respect and care for tradition and homage to history with a contemporary twist, would, in my opinion, best capture Thurley’s aesthetic if there was one city in the entire globe.

What do you think the state of fashion will be in five years?

The unfortunate loss of so many creative designers to the immense financial and psychological strains of having to create four new collections year while making a profit in the face of rising prices and competition is something we have tragically observed. I think the sector is undergoing a fundamental upheaval, and over the next five years, the retail environment will alter significantly. My only desire is that less well-known designers get the help they require to succeed in such a competitive climate.

What guidance would you offer to aspiring young designers who are unclear on how to accomplish their objectives?

I would tell them to believe in themselves and their capacity to realize their goals. Instead of thinking on the risks involved with developing a label, try to ask yourself why not. I don’t know how I summoned the courage, but I’m so glad I did. I’m so glad I took the chance when I had nothing to lose. You never know, it may just happen! Use rejection as fuel to prove to the world that you have something exceptional to contribute one day.

What will the brand’s next move be?

We are utterly committed to sustaining our present operations in Australia while also growing globally. We’ve been thrilled with the reception we’ve gotten from significant international department store buyers since returning to wholesale. It gave us hope that Thurley brings something fresh and unique to the global market. The Thurley team has spent ten years building the brand and our niche market; as a result, our team’s continued goal for the future is to offer our clients distinctive, high-quality goods that they will treasure and eventually pass on to their daughters.

For further information

You can check my site

We gather unique personal stories in connection with design from all over the internet, to inspire you to achieve your dreams. This case study was supervised by our team and it definitely caught our interest. You can find other inspiring stories here.