Her Own Words: Sinead Odessa Kelly

Fashion designer and artist Sinead Odessa Kelly sits down with Quinn Villagomez to chat inspiration, empowerment, and claiming your space.

At one point I called fashion dumb because I didn’t feel like there was any representation for me in the fashion world. I was so wrong.

I read some mangas by Yazawa Ai; she wrote a manga called “Paradise Kiss” and it’s a bunch of students that were in the fashion industry. At the time, and which is a current struggle I go through my entire life, I was really depressed and insecure, and my eyes really opened.

Photo via Sinead Odessa Kelly

I’ve had to find my own ways to cope with things. Art was one of them, and I think the reason why I resonated so much with that manga that put me in the fashion world was because it was a slice-of-life book that really dealt with adult circumstances—toxicity in relationships, how to deal with them, knowing what to do even when it’s hard, the directions you need to take to separate yourself from those types of situations. Everything about what I was doing in my life wasn’t making me happy. It wasn’t representing myself.

I always knew I wanted to be something artistic but that’s when I knew I wanted to be part of this world and help other people like me find their representation.

I was different, and I was depressed. I had a different story to tell with what I wanted to wear than what retailers were carrying.

Photo by Lauren Mulder

I look at fashion as my armor. The clothes I wear every day give me confidence. It’s like a warm hug at the end of the day. You’re nervous, maybe you don’t feel the best, but you put on your bright, powerful dress and suddenly you’re ready to fight the world like you’re Sailor Moon.

It’s what gives me that ability to go out of the house and feel good about myself and not care about what other people think, because I know damn well I worked hard on this outfit that I made. I worked hard on this B-face. [laughing] That’s what I want to give other people—that confidence.

I mean, not to Shia LaBoeuf it, but JUST DO IT! Find a good mentor—Samantha Rei was mine—find the right program, and just do it.

I love making jackets. I love jackets, I collect jackets, I have a leather jacket in every single color under the rainbow. I have a pink furry coat—I have two pink furry coats, actually. I live in Minnesota. I need that shelter. I’m very cold all the time.

I really like the small details. I like hand-sewing. I like adding your own personal touch to it. I love to get into beading more. I love the embellishments […] maybe putting something in the lining to give me strength, that’s something I will do in my fashion to create that vibe, that energy, that positivity I need to have so that when I do wear it, or when somebody else wears it, they can walk out the door and be like, ‘I am ambitious, I am strong, I’ve got this.’

The Prince show [“The Purple Ones” design competition] was something I needed to do to let out some of my emotions. Fashion is the way I like to create, it’s the way I express myself and it’s also the way I mourn and grieve. Being able to do that and honor Prince was a special moment.

Photo by Lauren Mulder

The individuality, the ambiguity, and always staying local. That gave me a good feeling. Because I was having a hard time resonating with my Minnesota home life, and seeing Prince being able to really represent Minnesota was wonderful.

My mom is my biggest inspiration in life. She’s been there through everything I’ve gone through. She’s always supported what I want to represent. When I wanted to be a goth in bondage pants she was the first one in line at 9am at Hot Topic.

Activism is the only way we change the world. And the world needs a lot of changing right now.

Conversations are so important. I have a lot of differences with a lot of my friends. But being able to have open conversations about it is what brings growth and understanding.

I work for a company right now, Kate Spade, that just signed that declaration against discrimination. Everyone in the company talks about how we won’t be a discriminatory company. The clothing you represent—it’s so important to know what you’re representing. I won’t buy from companies that I feel like don’t represent my social beliefs. Working for a company that supports my queer side is important to me. Working for a company that supports Black Lives Matter, that’s important, because that’s support, too, not just for me, but for my friends and family.

A friend of mine I’ve known for 12 years, she’d been representing as asexual for a long time, and then it came forth that [she’s] demisexual and had feelings for [me]. In my head, I’ve always thought I’m bisexual. But being in this relationship has made me realize that I probably am demisexual. I can’t be with anybody if I don’t have an intellectual conversation with you. I don’t believe in love at first sight—but love at first conversation? That can happen.

It wasn’t really about “coming out,” it was that I found my person in this world. It didn’t matter what gender they were. It is what it is. I’m in love with a girl!

I needed this break. I’ve taken a year off, I needed to mentally recoup. I lost my pet, it hit me in a hard place. Taking this time to breathe, to take my space, to work on my health, to get a stable income, work on my health care. […] I feel like it’s so important to know that you deserve your space. You deserve to take up space. Don’t be another angel—we need you here on Earth. 

Photo by Lauren Mulder

Color represents me. Depression is a dark and ugly thing, and being able to bring out bold and bright colors makes me feel safe. Even if I’m feeling dark on the inside, I can represent something beautiful and colorful on the outside.

The only thing that can hinder me, is me. And I’ve done enough of that.