Multidisciplinary designer Clodagh has spent the past 33 years divvying up her talents — an abundance of which are being revealed this fall.
“My theory in life is to never specialize because I think it makes you dull and boring,” she said. “I started out in fashion in 1983. Then I changed husbands, countries and careers and moved to Spain. I started doing what I do now. I do everything — I design rugs, fabrics, furniture, lighting, faucets, accessories.”
She and her team have designed “every scrap” of the newly opened East hotel in Miami save for the restaurants. In a few weeks, the Ireland-born designer will travel to Portugal to put the finishing touches on some of the villas at the Six Senses Douro Valley. Rooted in wellness and sustainability, her vision for the resort includes an organic garden on what used to be the tennis court. Chefs at Vale d’Abraão Open Kitchen and Dining Room harvest vegetables for guests’ meals. The Six Senses has been shortlisted for the 2016 European Hotel Design awards for the Spa & Wellness category. She will also be honored this fall with a Hospitality Design Platinum Circle award.
Clodagh is also working on her fifth hotel in Armenia with Tufenkian Heritage Hotels. The alliance is an extension of one the designer has with founder James Tufenkian, who also runs Tufenkian Artisan Carpets, which was started in order to revitalize the ancient art of Tibetan carpet weaving in Nepal.
In addition to residential buildings in Long Island, N.Y., and San Francisco, Clodagh is creating interiors for a private compound in the Dominican Republic. Her company recently relocated to new offices at East 23rd Street in Manhattan, where they also work on branding projects for select companies.
“I find that very exciting. Being Irish, I focus on words. I was born in Oscar Wilde’s country home [in in Cong, County Galway.] Literature, poetry and music are so important in Ireland,” she said. “I have always written. I usually write what I’m thinking of designing before I actually start to design. Words always conjure up images and they’re more flexible. You can move them around in your head. You know how books are converted into movies? It’s a little bit like that.”
Although she started in fashion with the launch of her company in 1983, she stopped designing collections in 2011. At that time, the German eco-friendly label Hessnatur nixed its plans to break into the American market, and parted ways with her and fellow designer collaborators Miguel Adrover and Eviana Hartman. But Clodagh said she is eager to return to designing “comfortable, glamorous” clothes for women.
Her commitment to sustainability is also ingrained in The Thorn Tree Project, a volunteer-run organization that helps the Samburu people realize their dream of educating their children. The group was founded 15 years ago by Jane Newman, who was taken in by some of the Samburu people after her Land Rover broke down while traveling from Nairobi, Kenya, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Once back in the U.S., Newman, who once headed up Chiat Day’s New York office, worked with Clodagh to organize a fund-raiser to open the first preschool. More than 1,500 students are now in school and many of the students’ ill parents are getting sponsored so that their children can attend high school and college.
Proceeds from the $25 Breakfast bracelets that are made by some of the women in the Samburu tribe cover the cost of breakfast for one-year for students. During a recent trip to Kenya, Newman brought a copy of Harper’s Bazaar, which featured their handwork, to show the workers their most recent publicity. To try to strengthen this initiative, Clodagh plans to recruit a handful of designers to create customized items for a fashion show at The Thorn Tree Project’s November fund-raiser in New York.