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Designing dreams Irish designer Helen O'Keefe recalls how she got to work with Kim Kardashian on fashion shoot

"Back home in Dublin I had grown up watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and then here I am being told I have to go and meet one of them!"

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Helen O’Keefe got to meet the famous Kardashian.

Helen O’Keefe got to meet the famous Kardashian.

Lady Gaga is just one of LaQuan’s famous clients.

Lady Gaga is just one of LaQuan’s famous clients.

Helen with designer LaQuan.

Helen with designer LaQuan.

Helen with designer LaQuan

Helen with designer LaQuan

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Helen O’Keefe got to meet the famous Kardashian.

HOT young Irish designer Helen O'Keefe will never forget the moment she was handed a dream assignment on a Kim Kardashian photo shoot.

Talented Helen, who comes from Dublin's Kilternan, was already counting her blessings to be working in New York with the ultra-cool LaQuan Smith fashion brand favoured by stars such as Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.

The 24-year-old rising star had just emigrated to America after an internship with home-grown fashion icon Paul Costelloe on his Dunnes Stores range.

"One day my boss at LaQuan said, 'Helen can you come outside for a second?' My mind started racing and I was thinking, 'Am I going to get fired? What have I done?'" Helen tells the Sunday World.

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Kim needed the designer’s clothes for the shoot.

Kim needed the designer’s clothes for the shoot.

Kim needed the designer’s clothes for the shoot.

"I was told, 'Look, I'm really sorry, but you're going to have to fly to LA tomorrow because we need you to drop off these pieces for a shoot with Kim Kardashian.' Inside my head I was about to explode with excitement, but I played it cool and said, 'Yeah, no problem, that's fine.'

"A few seconds later I'm texting my mum going, 'Oh my God! Oh my God! You're not going to believe this!…' Back home in Dublin I had grown up watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and then here I am being told I have to go and meet one of them!"

Helen arrived into LA at 11pm, and the call time for the Kardashian photo shoot was 6am the next morning, so it was a sleepless night.

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Helen with designer LaQuan.

Helen with designer LaQuan.

Helen with designer LaQuan.

"Even though I'm very good at concealing it, I was actually very nervous," she admits.

"It's kind of scary in those situations because at the end of the day I'm a 24-year-old girl still navigating the industry. It's all so far removed from what I was used to back home, so I had to learn very quickly how to navigate that kind of world and how to behave in those situations.

"I had been flown over to LA to represent my team at a shoot with 25 other people that I've never met before. It was such a terrifying experience where I needed to pretend that I knew exactly what I was doing. Confidence is key in those situations.

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Helen with designer LaQuan

Helen with designer LaQuan

Helen with designer LaQuan

"But I would say that ninety per cent of the things I've done in this brand have made me go, 'Oh God, it's so scary!' because I'm a novice who's learning the ropes. But you just have to pretend that you're fine. And because I have an Irish accent I also have to explain my back story a lot more over here."

Although Helen did get to rub shoulders with Kim Kardashian at that day's shoot, there was no scope for a chin-wag with the superstar.

"Kim said 'Hi', but she was very much surrounded by her team at all times. To be in that situation, though, was a huge pinch yourself moment for me," she says.

Helen's first taste of life in the world of fashion and design with the Paul Costelloe team in Dunnes Stores came shortly after she graduated from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin.

"I was on a team of 12 and Paul, who is based in England, would come in every two weeks and go through the designs. He's such an iconic name in Irish fashion, so I was excited to be working with him.

"I worked on print design for anything from their cushions and duvets to tableware. That was where I really learned my main skills. College sets you up for it, but it's the internships where you pick up the skills.

"I did a year with Dunnes, and then in May 2019 I moved to New York with a couple of girls from college. We moved over with nowhere to live and no jobs. I lived off pot noodles for the first couple of months.

"I reached out to literally 50 or 60 brands, but LaQuan was the one I really, really wanted to work for. I had followed LaQuan Smith throughout his career. I couldn't believe it then when it was LaQuan who gave me the interview and internship.

"His whole thing is designing for women to empower women. It's amazing the amount of female celebrities who wear him, everyone from Beyonce to Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Lizzo, Mariah Carey, Kylie Jenner and, of course, Kim Kardashian.

"In my second or third week LaQuan asked me to design belts. I started working with him in June or July 2019, and that September those belts were on the runway at New York Fashion Week. It was surreal.

"In some brands you don't meet or work with the designer, but LaQuan is sitting side by side with us. He's a big name with a small team and I am learning so much.

"When I started with the team there was no print designer and no graphic designer.

"I pushed myself and my designs towards that, and I did all the prints for our last collection.

"I saw a gap in the company and I've carved out a role for myself."

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