Columns - Features

Cork Heads: Sarah Corcoran; Stylist


In the first installment of her (let’s face it, absolutely ingenuously-titled) column Cork Heads – looking at some of said county’s brightest and fastest-rising talents – Brid O’Donovan introduces us to Cork-based fashion stylist Sarah Corcoran, touching upon her fashion background, figuring out her approach and what the future holds.

Brid’s photos feature photographer Michal Zagorsky and the model Amy McNamara.

[On Growing Up]

I have been really into fashion since I was a kid. I remember there was this thing called a Fashion Wheel. You switched around the outfits using different combinations so I guess that was my first experience with styling! I also had one of those old fashioned paper dolls. You get the clothes and they would have tags on them and you would just stick them on. I remember thinking “These are too old fashioned” so I started drawing my own ones. I drew one of myself and I used to draw on the outfits, really loser-y things like that (laughs). I’d think “Oh, I have too many clothes, I can’t keep up”. I was mad for fashion. I was really into dress up too. That was my favourite thing to do.


I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go to art college and be an artist in that way, even though I liked drawing. I did freak out a bit. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  I studied Art History and English and I really liked the subjects but I wanted to do something more creative. I was really confused about what I wanted to do. When I was in college I decided to do a fashion course just to see if that was what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do something a bit more creative than just studying. I did a night course in the College of Commerce. I found it good but it was most useful at the end when I did my assessment. You either do a makeover or a photo shoot and I decided that I wanted to do the photo shoot. Then from doing it, that made it really clear that I liked doing that. As opposed to the course itself, I felt like common sense had already taught me most of it. If you are into it, you know it already. We did all of these exercises with colour wheels, this colour goes with this colour but you instinctively know that kind of stuff if you are into that. Also there aren’t always rules. You can break the rules. They didn’t teach you about using your own ideas in that kind of a way. I would have liked more of a practical experience as well. It was a creative thing to study but I felt like it was lacking a bit of creativity. It would have been cool if they taught us a bit about networking  and how to organise shoots. For the end it was “Ok, organise a shoot and get your friends to help out” but I didn’t know how to do that on a bigger scale when I finished.


[Figuring “it” out]

At first, I emailed photographers seeing if they needed a stylist. I thought that someone needed to be looking for a stylist before I could do something and then I realised that the best way was to organise something myself. Come up with a concept and then say to a photographer “I am doing this if you want to photograph it”. They were more interested because it was already happening. I wasn’t going to pay anyone to do stuff, I just wanted to build my portfolio. I approached it with the attitude of “This is going to be good for you as well.”

Also in Cork, not every photographer gets the opportunity to shoot fashion so they seem to find it interesting. If the opportunity is there, they will want to do it. I realised that I had to say to people that I was doing this shoot with this concept so if you want to partake then come along. Rather than asking if they were looking for anyone because they usually said that were grand for the moment. It didn’t work that way. I had to figure that out. I also put up an advert on gumtree because I didn’t know how to find people who were involved with fashion photography. A make-up artist responded to do the shoot and she told me that she was using Model Mayhem to find models and I had never heard about that website before. It has more than models on it, it has fashion photographers, makeup artists and hair stylists and all that, in the one place. You can put up a casting call saying that you are looking for this person, this person and this person. I wouldn’t use it so much now but when I was starting out it was really good because everyone is doing it for free and they are trying to build their portfolio.


Working in Cork is good but obviously Cork isn’t the epicentre of fashion. It’s good to do something a bit different than what is usually going on. What I am doing is not different in general, but what’s going on in Cork fashion-wise is not too creative so I feel like it’s nice to try to do something like that in Cork. You’d be surprised how people you would find who are interested in it. The hair stylist and the make up artist are sometimes so creative with their ideas that you really appreciate it when you meet other hair/make up stylists who have their own ideas as well. It’s really nice when they can add something extra.


I probably take a lot of inspiration from movies. I did a shoot recently inspired by David Lynch. When I’m watching a film I’m always into the costume design and the overall atmosphere of the film, especially one of David Lynch’s is very inspiring. On a shoot, people have said, “Oh, this outfit reminds me of True Romance and this outfit reminds me of Spring Breakers.”. That wasn’t even a conscious decision of mine. Sub-consciously that came through. Those are two of my favourite films. Obviously I look at a lot of fashion magazines and I am inspired by what I see but obviously inspiration comes from other sources. The shoot today (photographed) was Geisha inspired. I have done Oriental-inspired shoots a few times and I think it is something I really like. There are so many options with that. It’s not like “Oh, I did that once” like it would be with a lot of different styles. I feel like this is the type of thing you can interpret loads of different ways. You can tone it down or go really dramatic. Today’s one was a bit more dramatic.


[The Shoot]

Michal (Zagorsky) picked the location. What happened was we worked with a designer that used some of Siobhan’s (owner of studio) paintings. She printed them on the clothing. They had a joint exhibition and I borrowed the designers clothes to shoot with Michal. She liked the pictures and included them in the exhibition. We met Siobhan at that and Michal saw pictures of her studio on Facebook or something like that and thought it would be a good place to shoot! It’s not a situation where people are thinking “What am I getting out of this?” or “What are you paying me?” it’s more like “That’s a cool idea, I like your idea”. They want to see art being made.

[The M Word]

I can be strange talking about money with people. There are some people who are at a certain level that get published a lot, are highly recommended, are busy and they would tell me that they will not work for free. Even though I feel that my work is of a certain standard now that people might actually say “I like your style, I want to do it because I think it will benefit my portfolio”. Then there are times when people ask me to do something free and I turn it down because I feel like it will not benefit my portfolio. It is awkward talking about money. Most of the time people expect you to do it for free. It sucks. It depends. If it someone is really creative that I want to work with, for my portfolio, I would say “Yeah, I think that would be amazing.”.

[Working Towards…]

I am really only interested in doing editorials. I wouldn’t be that interested in personal styling. Mainly, I want to do shoots for magazines, preferably to be working for a magazine. I would like to do creative direction as well as just styling. To come up with the concept of the shoot and then to choose the team who’s involved. I feel that, because I’ve done that a few times, I like having creative control. Coming up with an idea and having it executed the way I want. Other times I’m happy to work with the photographer with an idea.


[Coming up with ideas]

I don’t know if I’ve ever consciously sat down and tried to come up with an idea for a shoot. I might see one item of clothing and think “Oh, I could put that with that” and that might create this kind of a look and then you just go with that. Obviously with the Geisha theme today, that’s been done loads of times. That’s a fairly simple idea but when you think more of how you are going to interpret it you can do it differently. With the David Lynch shoot, I consciously thought that I wanted to do a shoot inspired by his films. It had been an idea that I was building for quite a while.


At the moment I am using mostly vintage. If I am doing something for a publication, it’s easier to get clothes from shops. I just did one for Cult Magazine so Topshop and Oasis lent me clothes. If it’s just for your portfolio it’s harder to get clothes. It’s easy to get vintage clothes for those kind of shoots. I use local designers too, like Conor Horgan from Dublin. I really like his stuff. Designers are up for showcasing their work as well.



I try to make sure that I always have a shoot planned. There are times when I’ll do loads at once and then I’ll get lazy. It’s good to have consistency, like one shoot every two weeks. It’s good for me to keep going like that. The shoots are always different and what you have to do for them is always different but it roughly takes the same amount of time to organise everything. There’s a lot of emailing back and forth with people, sourcing the clothes and putting it all together. It does follow a pattern. If I’m not asked to do something I will organise something myself because I will feel like I need to do something. Especially if I have an idea, I will feel like I have to do it as soon as possible. I will need it to become a reality.

[My style]

I like to think my style is a little bit different to the other things that are going on in Cork. Irish fashion in general is a bit safe. What I am doing isn’t totally different in general, in fashion. People who generally like my styling and that I have a mutual interest with are people that are involved in art and music. I feel like it could be filling a niche. It would be nice if I got published more (laughs).

Keep up to date with Sarah and her work via her Facebook page.