Throughout our lives, many people influence the way we work, the paths we take, and passions we are drawn to. Many open doors of opportunity that would have been closed otherwise and give us inspiration for our art and our lives. Sybil Connolly was one of those people.
Born in 1921, Sybil was a Dublin-based, world-famous designer known for creating fashion from Irish textiles, including finely pleated linen, wools such as Báinín, Limerick and Carrickmacross lace. She designed gowns for the likes of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Julie Andrews, and Elizabeth Taylor. She even had her own collections for Tiffany & Co, Brunschwig and Fils, and Schumacher.
Interi Founder and Creative Director, Jean O’Reilly Barlow had the privilege of working with Sybil during her modeling career. In the late 70’s, she became one of her in-house models, modeling private collections to some of Sybil’s most prestigious clients.
Recently, Jean got to reminisce about working with Sybil in an interview with the Hunt Museum in Limerick, Ireland. When recalling what it was like to work with the Irish fashion icon, Jean spoke about Sybil’s authenticity and kindness. “She was an extremely nice person and I think this was one of her keys to her success,” says Jean. She never tried to be anyone else…She did what she did and she had belief in herself.”
Sybil went on to be dubbed by the media as “Dublin’s Dior”, and was one of the first Irish fashion designers to have international success. She opened many doors for Irish designers and creatives and collaborated with Irish artisans on many collections. For one of her Tiffany & Co. collections, Sybil collaborated with Nicolas Mosse, an Irish artisan famous for his spongewear pottery. She writes about this in her book, “Irish Hands: The Tradition of Beautiful Crafts.
In addition to her collaborations, Sybil influenced many entrepreneurs and creatives, Jean being one of them. Her keen eye for beautiful, historic things and even religious art inspired Jean in her passion for ecclesiastical design and preservation.
She had crucifixes and 18th century Italian furniture all around her famous home in Marion Square. This was her atelier that she lived and worked from, hosting many of her famous clientele and where she would have tea with her models during fittings. While working with Sybil, Jean saw many of the beautiful pieces around her home and was able to buy and inherit some after the fashion designer’s passing. Some of these pieces include a large 18th century Rococo mirror, a few of her plate collections that once hung on her walls, and her famous bird cage that Jean has since filled with her own Rococo fragment pieces.
“As I create and transform my own pieces, I am thankful to look back on how people like Sybil inspired my work. She was an icon in her own right, and I hope during this centennial and what would have been her 100th birthday, she gets the recognition she so well deserves.”