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Olwen has designs strictly on ready-to-wear

SHE earned her style stripes designing spandex and feathered costumes on Strictly Come Dancing, but now Irish designer Olwen Bourke is getting ready to launch her own ready-to-wear line.

The 32-year-old designer may have left the bright lights and orange tan of ballroom dancing behind, but she says it was great experience.

"I did Strictly for four years. It was a dream job for a designer," she says.

"Totally manic, but a dream come true. You had to come up with new designs each week; every dress is a one-off, so it was extremely busy."

Olwen graduated with first-class honours from NCAD in 2002. After she was named Young Designer of The Year she headed to London to gain more experience.

"I wanted to set up my own label straight away, but thought it was probably best to get some experience first.

"So I moved to London and started working for dance dress design company Chrisanne. They were contracted to do all the dresses for Strictly, so that's where it all began."

The Dalkey native says that nearly all the celebs on Strictly were apprehensive when they came in for the first fitting.

"They were all scared of the costumes at first," she said. "They would be extremely body-conscious and shy away from certain colours.

"We had a few divas insisting on black. But by the end of the series they couldn't get enough of sequins and spandex. We wore them down eventually," she laughs.


Olwen says New Zealand model Rachel Hunter was one of her favourite contestants to design for.

"Rachel was great. She appeared on the Christmas special and was up for trying anything on. She used to be a model and had a great figure.

"Zoe Ball was also lovely. I was really proud of the dresses I designed for her. And she is so easy-going."

Olwen left the world of TV in 2007. She designed costumes for the Royal Opera House before setting up her own fashion label last year.

She spent 2012 designing more demure dresses. "I do a lot of weddings; a lot of brides, bridesmaids and headpieces. I love doing weddings because you're creating a special piece."

This year she plans to launch a more affordable line.

"I'll be designing an off-the-peg collection. I want the pieces to be classical but individual. It'll be affordable. I'm very excited about it."