A County Armagh designer is set to appear on the BBC’s ‘A Stitch through Time’ where aspiring fashion designers take on locally-inspired design challenges.
Annie McColgan, from Portadown, says that her experience with the show has helped boost her confidence and reinvigorate her passion for the field as she prepares to go it alone in the fashion industry.
In episode one of the show’s second series, which airs on July 17 on BBC One NI, Annie is one of four designers who take on fashion challenges inspired by the story of the Herdman family in Sion Mills, Co. Tyrone, and their contribution to the linen industry in Ulster.
The 25-year-old fashion designer, who was involved in the filming of the show last year, says that she can’t wait for the programme to finally air, adding that it was a truly “surreal” experience.
The series, which is presented by Claire McCollum, will air in four parts, with the final being in August.
Every week, the contestants are faced with both a blind challenge and a piece inspired by a brief, with the topics reflecting on “our own local textile industry and heritage”.
It features four contestants, who will go before a panel of two judges, with two of the contestants being sent home in the third episode.
While Annie is unable to go into the details of how she got on in the programme, she says that she had “really good fun” and the experience has given her a renewed passion for design.
She explained: “To be honest, it was really, really nerve-wracking for me personally. I feel like it really improved my confidence as a designer though as I got more comfortable as each episode went on.
“I kind of panicked when I got selected for it because I didn’t actually think I was going to get chosen. Then whenever I turned up it was just chaos.
“It was a really good experience and all of the tasks they gave you were very interesting.
“You have a blind challenge and then you have a challenge that you’ve had a week to prepare for. So you’ve had a week at home to do your research and and come up with a design and then figure out how you’re going to make it.”
“It was quite intense,” Annie admitted. “It’s fine designing things at home, but then whenever you’re under time pressure and there’s like five cameras pointing at you and people are asking you questions… It was just a really surreal experience.
“I feel everybody got more comfortable as the episodes went on and everyone actually became really good friends so I really enjoyed it in that way.”
When she was contacted to appear on the show, Annie was working in a design job for a large company after graduating from university. However, she says that her job never really scratched her creative itch.
“I felt really secure in it and it was what I thought I wanted but then I realised it wasn’t really fulfilling me creatively and then I think the show was just that little nudge to actually go out on my own.
“It was really good experience. But it showed the bigger side of the fashion industry. There’s all these massive companies and nobody really like the likes of dressmakers and local design. That stuff doesn’t really exist anymore and it’s kind of a dead industry.”
She added: “It wasn’t what I envisaged myself doing. I love to make, I love detail, I love to take my own inspiration from things and turn it into something. I’m always going to be an artist first and foremost. I didn’t really fit into that box of designing for a big company.”
Annie hopes to launch her own collection alongside the show, which she says “improved my confidence to put my work out and follow my dreams”.
She added: “It’s all women’s wear but it’s all made from 100% Irish linen. It’s all locally sourced so I really want to work alongside our local industry and just make bespoke pieces that I feel represent our culture and our heritage.
“I think it (the show) was just the little nudge that I needed. I’d always wanted to go self-employed but I just didn’t have the nerve. I think the show just reignited in me that I can do this, I really enjoy it and it’s what I want to do.”
You can watch Annie’s appearance on ‘A Stitch through Time’ on Monday July 17 at 8pm on BBC One NI.