The incredible career of fashion designer Natalie B Coleman, from dressing celebrities to working in New York

It’s been a funny few years.

I have two children – Eden, five, and Odin, three – and Covid has made everything strange for all of us. But I’m doing a new collection this year for a September launch, which is really, really exciting.

I would describe my personal style as Victorian grunge.

I really like silk, feminine ruffles and pleats. I also love good wools and Irish heritage fabrics. I like a little twist, that’s for sure.

I don’t judge what my fashion students wear to class.

Although, I think if you’re really into fashion and you’re very young, it’s your free and fun time to discover your style. This is your chance to learn and experiment — maybe even get a little wild — before you have to start dressing for work and getting more conservative. People should dress wild as much as they can. Saying that, I was going around Stoneybatter [north Dublin] in a pair of rubber boots for the past two years.

I think nothing should be banned in fashion.

I’m not a fan of corduroy, but I try not to be judgmental. I was probably more judgmental about things when I was younger, but now I don’t really think anything should be a no-no. For me, personally, I don’t like corduroy or a lot of tight clothing.

Natalie loves Tilda Swinton’s style

At the moment I’m working on the new collection so there are lots of party dresses with really fun prints.

And I make beautiful knits, which requires a lot of work. I like to work in collaboration, to do different projects with an artist or a musician so as not to work alone, but to tell someone else’s story. It can be interesting to see how they approach things.

I don’t do a new collection every season, I just do one collection a year right now.

I decided to do what suits the life I want to have. In addition to this new September collection, I have a few different collaborations coming up over the next year. I also teach and I have children so it’s quite complete. There can be such a saturation of fashion and repetition, so doing something that keeps you engaged is important. Everyone works differently, but for me, less is more.

Fashion is a very difficult industry to succeed in.

I think success depends on how you view success. The industry changes so much, it’s really interesting but it’s also quite scary. I’m old school in that I always make patterns on paper. But it’s tricky, it’s very competitive and it can be a strange environment.

Style isn’t just about what you put on your body, it’s about your attitude when you wear it.

There are so many women in Ireland who dress beautifully. Right now I love hip-hop artist Denise Chaila, she’s amazing. Actress Caitríona Balfe is gorgeous too. Internationally, I love Tilda Swinton.

I’ve seen quite a few celebrities wear my designs over the years.

I have dressed Denise Chaila, Laura Whitmore, Angela Scanlon, Marina and the Diamonds, Suki Waterhouse, Lily Collins, Little Mix, Mary J. Blige and Nicola Coughlan. I also designed Charlene McKenna’s wedding dress last year. I’ve dressed a few people who have won Grammys but aren’t as well known, like jazz musicians.

Natalie designed Charlene McKenna's wedding dress
Natalie designed Charlene McKenna’s wedding dress

Antique jewelry is my big indulgence – I love it.

I love jewellery, especially 18th century pieces and find them all at Weldon’s in Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Dublin. They make beautiful Victorian mourning jewelry.

My most prized possession is a ring from my mother.

My mother died when I was a teenager so I inherited her jewelry. I think that’s why I have such an affinity for collecting jewelry from past lives.

I buy a lot of good shoes.

Most of the clothes I wear are my own, so when I invest in designer pieces, it’s usually shoes. I love JW Anderson, Jil Sander, Céline and Givenchy for heels. I also buy other designers for clothes – I have a Dolce & Gabbana crazy flower two-piece that I love. I appreciate designers who do things that I don’t do, but I mostly wear my own creations with a coat, shoes and a bag from elsewhere.

Fashion is often influenced by the city you live in.

When it comes to the hottest cities in the world, I love New York. I will be going back there soon. I haven’t been to New York for about three years, I worked there before but I know it’s changed a lot since then. I also like Copenhagen, the Danes are really beautiful and cool. I lived in Barcelona and it had a special vibe. It all depends on where you are, what you eat and what music you listen to. They all contribute to the ambiance.

Read more: Galway designer Aisling O’Brien explains how Kate Middleton helped her jewelry business take off

Read more: The incredible career of fashion designer Emma Manley, from collaborating with Alexander McQueen to creating her own label

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