First Published January 2020
AND GOING TO THE OSCARS…IT’S CLAIRE GARVEY!
The prestigious Best Movie accolade may well have went to the Korean language comedy-come-thriller Parasite at this year’s Oscars, but as far we’re concerned, the two big winners of the night were definitely two fabulous Irish women. While Parasite will go into the record books as the first ever foreign language film to claim the main prize, history was also made in the orchestra pit where Galway woman Eímear Noone became the first woman EVER to conduct the orchestra on the biggest night of the year for the silver screen. And as she did so, she was resplendent in a warrior-like gold outfit brought to life through the creative genius of Dublin designer CLAIRE GARVEY.
I had the pleasure of meeting Claire for the first time a couple of years back when she was a guest on Marian Shanley’s The Power of Dreams show on Dublin South FM on the same day as the Wrafter Family Band. Claire was wearing one of her own designs that day, and I’ve been a fan ever since, both of her designs and of the lady herself. In the wake of what was actually her second involvement in the Oscars (stay tuned for more on that!), I had the privilege of catching up with Claire again last week.
And I could only begin by asking Claire how that past week had been for her. Because, even for someone as accustomed as she to having her work in the spotlight, something like the Oscars invariably has an extra touch of sparkle involved. Even more so, of course, with Eímear Noone making history as well…
“It’s been absolutely incredible. I mean, to do two dresses for the Oscars…! I think I stayed up until half-two in the morning watching Eímear moving her arms wildly conducting and I was just mesmerised by her talent, ya know. And there’s actual been a cookie made of the outfit, an actual cookie from an American cookie company! [laughs]. The whole thing is just bizarre. I think they pick their four favourite Oscar outfits every year and they make cookies out of them! So it’s surreal, but it’s such a proud moment to do it for Eímear as well, because I’ve worked with her for years now. So this is just like the icing on the cake, if you’ll excuse the pun of the cookie again [laughs].”
Eímear text Claire within about thirty seconds of first getting the news of her Oscars appearance herself. I asked Claire if she could take me back to that moment and what it felt like for her as she was reading that message…
“Gosh, I was sitting there eating chips and watching telly, ya know, with my husband at home. Then I get this text from Eímear and I said, oh, I wonder what she’s up up to now. And the message was like, ‘Claire!!!’ And I was like, oh, o.k…and I read on…’Can you help me?!’ And I was thinking, yeah, of course, but then I read on and saw that it was the Oscars! I just sort of sat there for a second, and the chips nearly fell off my lap [laughs]. But once she had asked me, we still didn’t know if an outfit would get approved, because you have to get approved by the Oscars for what she’s going to wear. I think it’s because Eímear was the conductor, because anybody else can wear what they want. The conductor of the orchestra, normally they’ll wear black or suits. So she wasn’t sure. I mean, I started straight away doing an outfit for her! Literally, sixty seconds after getting her message, yeah, I started working on something that night. So she rang me the next day and said to me, ‘I have an idea, I’m thinking of gold.’ And I was looking at what I had in my living room in front of me, that I’d started work on…and it was gold! And then she said, ‘And I’m thinking of a jacket!’ And that’s what I had started, a gold jacket! It was so bizarre that I’d actually started what she was thinking of in her head.”
So what Claire thought of almost straight away after first hearing from Eímear, is almost exactly what they finished up with?
“Honest to God! I swear. That very night I started a leather, gold coat for her. And literally when I heard from her next…it might have been a few days because she was up to her ears…she said she was thinking of gold, and thinking of a coat. And I said to her, ‘You’re not going to believe this, Eímear, I’m sitting here looking at a jacket that I’ve started, and it’s gold!’ I think, because it was the Oscars, I was thinking of her conducting on the podium as a gold statue with her long, gold hair would be brilliant. Obviously we were sending cosmic vibes to each other! [laughs]. Thank God she said gold! [laughs].”
Did Claire realise straight away that Eímear was going to be the first female conductor of the orchestra ever at the Oscars? Was that something Eímear had mentioned in her text? Or did it dawn on Claire later?
“It totally dawned on me later. I just saw Oscars and I was gone! [laughs]. I’d done Nile Rodgers [of the band Chic] at the Oscars a few years earlier. But to do a female, and then to realise that it’s the first female conductor ever, AND she’s Irish…! God, it was incredible! You’d be kind of pinching yourself. With Nile Rodgers you didn’t know if he was going to wear it until the night. Whereas with Eímear, once it was confirmed, she had told people then what she’d be wearing. So it was almost more pressure, in that I was scared something would go wrong, or maybe she wouldn’t wear it. I remember on Saturday night…I thought the Oscars were on Saturday night, I was so wired! [laughs]. I looked at her page and she was wearing this black dress, and I thought the worst! Because I wasn’t over there, ya know, so I didn’t know what was happening. But my husband said to me, ‘Claire…they’re not on until tomorrow night!’ [laughs]. I was like right…o.k…[laughs]. So it was a different kind of pressure. But it all went brilliantly, ya know, thank God.”
That Nile Rodgers connection, of course, is something that some people may not be aware of, and the fact that Claire had an Oscars link in her story already. Claire explained how that all came about…
“Ah sure that was bizarre, too! A friend of mine sent pictures of my work to the girls from Chic, cos’ one of my friends kind of vaguely knew her. And they seemed to love the stuff and said they’d love to wear it when they were going to be in Belfast. So I did two outfits for Kimberly and Folami for that show, and Nile Rodgers saw them and said, ‘Hey, where did you get your outfits?!’ [laughs]. They said this girl in Dublin. Then, two days later I get a message saying it’s Nile Rodgers, he was looking for something for the X-Factor, could I do something for that which was in a few days time, and I think it was for the girls as well. That was another one of those moments. Although I didn’t have chips with me that time [laughs]. I put down the phone and I was like, oh my God, in a couple of days I have to do a man’s jacket for Nile Rodgers – and I’d never done mens’ wear before – and for the girls! But after that, we’ve done loads for him. For Bette Midler parties, for Duabai, and for the Oscars we did two outfits for him. He put mine on for the red carpet, and changed out of mine and ate his dinner in Louis Vuitton, then put another one of mine on to perform! That was my claim to fame! [laughs]. Then when I bought the shop last year, Nile flew over and cut the ribbon. So he’s been absolutely unbelievably supportive of me, he really has.”
I was curious to know if the way Claire had that moment of almost divine inspiration where EÍmear’s outfit was concerned, had happened with Nile’s too? Or was that a more thought-out process?
“They’re never planned out. It’s funny, the first time I was doing the X-Factor one for him, I had only two or three days to do it, but I had it done. But I was looking at it, and even though I was flying out with it the next morning, I knew it still needed something else. So I got a can of spray paint – fabric spray paint – and I sprayed half of it blue! [laughs]. It could have gone soooo wrong! [laughs]. I don’t know if it was naivety or cleverness on my part, but i just went for it! And when I met him in his hotel room, he said, ‘God, I love the two-tone colors!’ And I did one for him for the Oscars that glowed in the dark. But he didn’t know it did! I never even told him. I presumed that when he was lying there the night before thinking what would he wear for the Oscars, it would be glowing back at him [laughs]. So people tend to trust me, and I tend to just do what I think is right. And if I second guess it, then it doesn’t work for me.”