Born in Perterborough (England), this young artist is currently in his final year of Creative Direction at the London College of Fashion. Owen Mooney, at a young age, has already worked in Wonderland Magazine and collaborated in some shootings for other publications. He also has experience in modelling, but he claims that he feels prouder with things that he creates instead of being featured in something. Part of the queer community, creative and ambitious, we have asked him some questions to know who he truly is.
Let’s start by knowing a little bit more about you. Where are you from and how did you get started in the industry?
I grew up in a city called Peterborough, and like every Peterborian would say, "It's an hour north of London" because no one ever knows where the hell it is. Some don’t have great things to say about Peterborough, but it's home to me, so it’ll always be in my heart. After school, I decided not to follow through by going to university right away. It didn’t feel right at the time, I had no idea about what I really wanted to do. It wasn’t until I interned at Wonderland Magazine that I realised fashion was what made my heart race a bit faster. It was the contacts I made assisting on shootings and going to fashion parties that really helped me get my foot in the door. Fashion is a loud and overwhelming industry, so it's essential to make sure people remember you (for good reasons).
What are you studying right now and what can you tell our readers about your experience as a student in a fashion school?
Now, I'm about to get into my final year of studying Creative Direction for Fashion at the London College of Fashion. My experience so far has resulted in hours in the library and realising more and more how much debt I’ve gotten myself into.
You were part of the model casting for Palomo Spain’s runway show in New York earlier this year. How was your experience? Did you like the city and the environment? Could you tell us an anecdote or something remarkable about it?
I was! I was so proud to be a part of Alejandro's show. Palomo Spain is beyond incredible, I really felt like a part of a movement. Everyone involved in that show eradiated pride and bravery for the queer community. The clothes took away our genders: we weren't masculine or feminine, we were free to be whoever we wanted to be. My main worry was to not fall while wearing heels, but I ended up ‘werking’ it like Naomi in a Versace show.
I was in New York at the time because I was assisting stylist Airik Prince for a university semester, and one evening before Palomo Spain’s show I was asked to run downtown to a casting for it, and the next morning I was in hair and makeup. That's something pretty remarkable about that city: the opportunities are endless. I was there to assist but ended up falling into modelling for New York Fashion Week, which is something I never imagined happening in my life!
After this experience, are you considering starting a modelling career, being in front of the cameras instead of behind?
I’ve had my fair share of modelling I would say, truly; I’ve in front of the camera more than behind it, to begin with. I was signed to Supa for some time after interning at Wonderland. I've cherished some amazing moments and met some great people along the way, but I think the feelings are more rewarding when you're proud of something you've created rather than when you're featured in it.
As you’ve told us, you interned at Wonderland Magazine for a time. How was the experience there?
Wonderland is where I did my first footsteps in the fashion industry; it's when I realised it was nothing like Ugly Betty, that it is actually a lot less glamorous. There are people in the industry that want to help you and there are others that are in it just for themselves. I always am thankful to Matthew Josephs, who was a fashion director while I was there, and who gave me a lot of opportunities from which I learnt a lot. I will always lend a hand to anyone who needs it: something that can mean nothing to you can be huge to someone else.
What are the biggest inspirations for your projects? And how would you define yourself as an artist?
I always want my work to tell a story, which is usually portrayed through the subject's eyes. I don’t usually like to take the models too far away from what their real story is; maybe slightly enhance it. So, I would say the inspirations for me begin with who I am shooting, and then the art unravels from there. The Hunger magazine shoot with Clare Setian was all about Joel Mignott feeling isolated as a gay male of colour in the industry, and the Queer Manifesto shoot portrayed a queer woman of colour unapologetically expressing who she is in a vulnerable presence.
As cliché as it sounds, I would define myself as fearless. From my early works during my art foundation’s years to now, I've never been afraid to produce work that people found bizarre and controversial. I always look up at artists like Egon Schiele and Sarah Lucas, who didn’t give a fuck about what others thought about their work, there's no fear in their creations.
“That's something pretty remarkable about New York: the opportunities are endless. I was there to assist but ended up falling into modelling.”
Do you like to explore different spaces, arts and styles in your projects?
I like to touch upon many different styles in my work. I am quite diverse with what I create, which is quite apparent. I can sway between elegant to dark aesthetics – but it depends on the theme or who I am shooting, I guess.
In your different works, you use models from different cultures and backgrounds, but we can highlight that the queer one is a common thread in most of them. Can you explain us a little bit more about this?
I think that, when creating, you do it better when you can empathise with the subject. I am part of the queer community, so I think it becomes second nature to drive queer aspects into my work. A lot of what I do has an underlining political stance behind it, through race, sexuality, feminism – I don't always want to create a pretty picture, I like my work to have meaning.
Related with the last question, you always portray models. How do you work and interact with them? How do you get what you want and how do you portray their personalities?
I always make sure that the models provide as much inputs to the shoot as anyone else on set. When everyone is on the same page, I think the shoot flows better. I like there to be a good relationship between us both; connection is key to getting the best outcome. I always show them the photographs as we go along, which is something I didn't like when I was a model (not knowing how the pictures were looking).
Usually the concept of the shoot already reflects the model’s personality. As I mentioned before I don't take the model too far away from his or her real story. For example, I shot Airik in his apartment block styled by himself, so the whole essence of that shoot – punk and dark – really vibes on his personality.
What do you like the most about your career and, so far, which project has been the one you enjoyed the most?
Meeting and making friends with my fellow young creatives along the way, and seeing all of us slowly making our way up this strenuous fashion ladder. Seeing hard work pay off.
I enjoyed a lot of the projects in which I worked with Airik Prince in New York. We did a few cover shoots, so maybe it was because it’s the closest thing to Ugly Betty? “Hellooo, I'm in New York shooting a cover!” I've also shot each of my siblings, and I really loved having them involved in my art. Those shoots will always be very special to me.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I would love my name to be in the credits of a major fashion magazine under the title Creative Director.
Finally, what would you recommend to anyone out there who wants to start their business in the fashion industry?
Don't get disheartened if you never get that email reply or your shoot doesn't get published. It still happens to me, just keep pushing. Experience and networking is crucial. Always be nice, but don't let people walk over you.
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