Irish-born, New York-based Designer Creates Olympic Uniforms for Team Ireland


Three-and-a-half years is a haul for a designer to quietly toil away on one project, but now Laura Weber can finally share the details of one Olympic-level undertaking. 

The Dublin-born New York-based talent is creating Team Ireland’s uniforms for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Summer Games in Paris. In addition to the 158 or so Irish athletes, who will compete for their home country, she will be suiting up Ireland’s hospitality staff and executive board. With pre-Olympics media coverage amping up and fans getting excited, Weber said Monday, “Reality is setting in now and only now. But I’ve been working on this project for three-and-a-half years. It’s been so under wraps for so long. Now that I’m able to chat about it a little bit more, it’s like oh-my-God-this-is happening.”

Weber will fly back to Dublin Wednesday to start fittings with Team Ireland athletes this weekend. She will also attend this month’s opening ceremony in Paris and catch some of the first week’s events. The momentous assignment is sure to garner global attention for the 33-year-old, who generally prefers to fly under the radar, despite consistently working with top-shelf talent and having had a hand in Gabriela Hearst’s ensemble for First Lady Jill Biden on inauguration night in 2021. Weber embroidered all of the federal flowers from every state and territory in the U.S. on FLOTUS’ evening coat and dress and Hearst nudged her into the spotlight in a social media post. That gesture indirectly led to Weber’s first Olympian encounter — Ireland’s Natalya Coyle, a three-time modern pentathlon competitor, reached out for embroidery for her wedding gown. The pair then became friendly in the process. 

Weber

The designer is outfitting 158 or so athletes for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Photo Courtesy Laura Weber

In line with the gumption Weber had to relocate to the U.S. jobless in 2013, she pitched Irish officials ahead of this year’s Summer Olympics to design Team Ireland’s uniforms for what will be the country’s centennial in Olympic competition. “We competed in Paris in 1924 for the first time as a free state, and [the] 2024 [Games] will be 100 years. I really wanted to make something for them and I put together this massive proposal,” she said. 

Her Olympics designs are meant to make the country’s competitors feel united, while still giving them a touch of personalization. Each athlete chose the county they wanted embroidered on a jacket sleeve. Anticipating the majority of Team Ireland will be together for the first time in the Olympic Village, Weber envisions them bonding by asking one another about their counties of choice. She has also included their county emblems in her designs. In addition, the backs of the jackets have four shamrock motifs that are representative of Ireland’s four provinces. The word “Ireland” is embroidered on the backs of the hand-frayed tweed jackets. An embroidered bundle of shamrocks includes a four-leaf one for luck. Weber said that being able to offer the skills that she has learned to her country as a service and to work with Olympians, “who are just at the top of their game, is such an honor.” 

Responsible for shoes, pants, jackets, shirts, hats, skirts, suits, and dresses, Weber is churning out “thousands” of units in New York’s garment center, where she lives and works. The American-made production was “never really an issue, because full end-to-end manufacturing would be a challenge in Ireland right due to the quantities, the turnaround times and trying to get fabrics,” Weber said. “Even the facilities’ abilities would not be on the scale of New York. It is doable in Ireland right now, but just at this scale and with the time constraints, it wouldn’t be an option.”

Millions will be watching the opening ceremony on their smartphones and on TV to see how each country’s national team turns out. NBC’s audience for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games reeled in 14 million viewers in the U.S. alone.

Weber

Laura Weber’s Team Ireland designs.

Photo Courtesy Laura Weber

Accustomed to being discreet about the leading designers and clients that she collaborates with, Weber has largely kept a low profile in the fashion industry. (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Michelle Obama and Saoirse Ronan are a few from her roster.) “I work with a lot of high-profile people. There’s the unwritten rule that you have to be quiet and careful about speaking out about the work that you do and the people that you do it for,” she said. “Designers are always the face. I would never want to take away from a designer, who has worked so hard to get where they are in their careers. My making is just a very small cog in a much bigger machine.”

After graduating from the National College of Art & Design in Dublin with a degree in embroidery, Weber just “up and moved to America” at the age of 22 looking for work. “I didn’t know what I was coming to. I didn’t have a plan — young and hopeful,” she said. For several years, Weber worked in garment center factories “to really grasp the concept of making.” Having been a maker for all of her life, Weber took up knitting at the age of 4, and sewing, doing embroidery, scrapbooking, and coloring soon followed. Set on becoming a fashion designer since childhood, she described her professional calling as “a forever thing.” 

She said, “I landed in the garment center and realized, ‘Wow, this is how everything gets made.’ I just soaked up every single ounce of what was happening around me in terms of the process, operating machinery, understanding pretty complex construction and other aspects in a wide range of work from runway to high-end to commercial projects.”

Weber and her husband Rein, a 16-year industry veteran who is the company’s chief executive officer, are all about New York’s garment center — they live and work there. In addition to Hearst, Weber has connected with numerous leading designers like Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne, Tommy Hilfiger and Marc Jacobs through different projects. In truth, all of this panned out serendipitously.

In 2019, when exhaustion had set in after several years of working with New York manufacturers, Weber planned to take a breather to travel and chart a new course. But after being roped into a project for the February 2020 edition of New York Fashion Week, other designers soon came knocking on her door so Weber nixed her plans to reboot and decided to venture out on her own. Without posting a bunch on social media or doing any advertising, people started requesting pieces purely by word of mouth. Two years later she launched LW Pearl, which specializes in couture embroidered designs and is sold exclusively in Ireland.

Already committed to completing a few NYFW-related jobs for a couple of brands for September, Weber plans to pursue wider distribution for LW Pearl in other countries this fall. But later this month she will be cheering on Team Ireland at the Summer Games She said, “Ireland is absolutely excelling in athletics right now. They just rocked in the European Championships so I would love to get into any athletics game. Ireland is really good at equestrian too.”

She also hopes to squeeze in a vacation in the coming months. “I am dying for a break [laughs] — absolutely. Hopefully, if the calendar will allow it, there is a week at the end of September, when I can go to a beach and turn off my phone for a bit,” she said. “The days and the months and the years have just gone. But it’s been a phenomenal experience. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”



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