For over ten years, Connemara’s Caterina Coyne travelled the world as a principal dancer in Riverdance before following her dream to become a fashion designer. Now, based in Los Angeles, she creates the most unique and beautiful couture pieces. Patricia McCrossan recently caught up with Caterina to hear more about her next creative venture, seeing her open a shop in LA promoting Irish Design.
What is life like for you now that you live in Los Angeles?
I have been coming over and back to LA for years now. I spend half my time here and half my time at home in Ireland, so I feel very fortunate that I can do that. It allows me to appreciate what I love about both places. And, of course, Connemara will always be home for me. I love LA, but I miss Ireland and home so much, and that feeling never goes away. You can not beat the California weather! And it is a very artistic city, and they say that 1 out of every six residents that live in LA works in the creative industry… so you are always meeting people doing creative work, which I love. The diversity is fantastic here, and you meet people from all walks of life doing wonderful things. Just when I think I’ve had the most LA moment, something else will happen, and I will think, wow, you don’t or won’t see that in Connemara!
How was the experience of moving during the pandemic and why did you make that choice?
My husband and I were at home in Ireland for the first 12 months, and things were not getting much better, with no easing of the lockdown in sight. We both work in the creative industry, my husband Mark is the musical director in Riverdance, so it affected us both pretty hard. He had just started the 25th Anniversary Tour in North America, and we were actually in New York in March 2020. He was performing in Radio City Music hall when the world shut down. I will never forget how quiet, and silent New York got in the space of 48 hours! So after some time, our friends in LA said things had started to open up, and that was when we decided to head there. The lifestyle and weather made it easier for restaurants and coffee shops to open quicker, plus theatres and events had started to happen again. Thankfully, Mark’s Riverdance tours began again shortly after, so it made sense for us to stay.
Congratulations on the opening of your new shop promoting Irish design. Can you tell us a bit about that process and what you hope to achieve with it?
Thank you. I am a member of the Irish Fashion Council. I spoke to our President, the wonderful Eddie Shanahan, some time ago about how I could use my time when in the states to promote my work and other Irish designers. I had always felt very proud to be part of a creative industry, both when I was in Riverdance and now in the fashion industry. I am definitely a cheerleader for anyone who follows their dream. It can be a hard path to go down and a lonely one. Most of my pieces are made by hand or done in very small quantities, just like many other designers featured in the store. The idea is to start with a small section of the store purely allocated to Irish design. Irish design has such a deep rooted history in craftsmanship that can not be found here in the USA, and that is a point of difference that I hope you will find in the store.
Tell me about life as a child growing up in Connemara. Where did you grow up, and what are your favourite childhood memories of growing up there?
I was almost 13, when we moved to Connemara from Surrey in the Uk. My dad is from Connemara, and my mum is from Skibbereen Co Cork. We would come over to Ireland every year for the whole summer, spending half our time in Cork and then in Galway. We loved it. I have two sisters, and my fondest memories are of us playing in the fields with all our cousins. We loved the freedom of Ireland, and music and dance were always a big part of it. My cousins in Cork were all musicians and were big into set dancing, so we would tag along and join in. We had so much fun. I am so grateful we grew up in Connemara. The West of Ireland is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I have been to many places.
What do you think of the Irish design landscape in Ireland at the moment? In your experience, is there enough support?
There is a lot of support for Designers in Ireland, and after spending this time in Los Angeles, I see how lucky we are to have this support at home. So much has changed since the pandemic. Even though there was a definite shift to buying local and supporting homegrown talent before it, the pandemic forced
people to look at what was on their doorsteps. Irish Fashion and design have always been stellar, and I think people now have a new sense of appreciation for the art and design world. I hope it will only grow and gain strength from here.
Read the full interview with Caterina Coyne in our latest Summer issue on shelves now!
Images: Brian Doherty @briandoherty