Sinéad O’Dwyer offers a voyeuristic glimpse into life as an au pair
The radical London designer’s SS22 collection gets its debut through an intimate, romantic, but wholly mundane short directed by Sharna Osborne
When Sinéad O’Dwyer was making her way through her Royal College of Art MA and taking her first tentative steps into the world of fashion, she – like plenty of us out there – also had a side gig to support herself. Working as a nanny, the boundary-pushing, London-based designer would take care of other peoples’ kids – picking them up from school, helping them with their homework, making them meals, and tucking them into bed as she waited for their parents’ to arrive home.
It was this stint as a domestic worker that went on to inspire her latest presentation – a short, lo-fi film heralding the arrival of her SS22 collection, created in collaboration with Sharna Osborne. Named Domiciliary, the grainy clip goes behind closed doors to offer a voyeuristic glimpse of what four characters get up to when their employers and charges aren’t around.
Cut to kids’ bedrooms and book-lined lounges where O’Dwyer’s unsurprisingly diverse cast – including former Dazed covergirl, athlete Chelsea Werner – clamber on furniture to take selfies, submerge themselves in roll top baths, and sneak cigs slouched over tree swings. It’s intimate, romantic, yet wholly mundane all at once, and if you’ve ever been a babysitter, bored, restless, and curious when the kids are in bed, it’s likely the grainy film will strike a chord.
After making her name with couture-level silicone moulded corsets, cast largely from friends’ bodies and worn by the likes of Arca and Paloma Elsesser, this new collection marks the designer’s second foray into ready-to-wear. Having dropped her debut offering back in January, this time around she headed to London’s Bishopsgate Institute – home to a huge archive of LGBTQ+ erotica and pornography – and submerged herself in stapled-together, homemade pamphlets depicting the fetishisation of domestic workers.
“There was also this one particular book of black-and-white illustrations full of these very motherly, nanny-like characters nursing adult babies” – Sinéad O’Dwyer
“I was very inspired by an image by (fine art photographer) China Hamilton, but there was also this one particular book of black-and-white illustrations full of these very motherly, nanny-like characters nursing adult babies,” recalls O’Dwyer as we catch up over the phone ahead of the collection’s debut. “I really loved the silhouettes, and the contrast of dark and light.”
You can see the influence running throughout, with the designer’s now-signature textured stretch fabric fashioned into bodysuits and bibs that tie with powder-hued straps, and almost bloomer-y bottoms with coquettish peekaboo cutouts.
Beyond these erotic, monochrome etchings, O’Dwyer also looked to traditional Shibari rope-tying techniques for inspiration, “though more the way the rope twists and moves as opposed to the knots themselves,” she adds. In contrast to the pale pastels of the bodies, bloomers, and bras, the criss-crossing, bondage-y stockings that snake up the models’ bodies, snapping seductively as they move, add sharp flashes of scarlet, lime, and Cheeto orange.
Key for SS22 is more of the tailoring that O’Dwyer first dipped her toe into for AW21. Having previously debuted a standout leather coat that simultaneously enhanced and concealed the bust through deft, disarmingly creative methods, this season she’s expanding this across waistcoats, shirting, and a similarly striking suit jacket, as well as a series of loose, louche trousers.
Elsewhere, she’s also trying her hand at creating moulded, corset-like pieces using an intricate pleating method – seen in the bodice of a pale, sugary pink dress and a white, sleeveless tuxedo-esque top. “I’d been wanting to recreate the shapes I did with my moulds through pleating for a long time,” she explains. Finishing touches, meanwhile, take the form of a new, stainless steel chain belt bearing O’Dwyer’s name, and a kitten-heeled mule bearing former collaborator Christa Jarrold’s orgy illustrations, which joins last season’s Mary-Jane style.
Watch the film above.