Thursday 8 December 2016

Fashion: The subtle mastery

Constance Harris

Published 18/05/2015 | 02:30

Top, €190; trousers, €390; belt, €350, all Richard Lewis. Shoes, €165, KG by Kurt Geiger, Brown Thomas
Top, €190; trousers, €390; belt, €350, all Richard Lewis. Shoes, €165, KG by Kurt Geiger, Brown Thomas
Top, €190; skirt with belt, €1,040, both Richard Lewis. Shoes, €315, KG by Kurt Geiger, Brown Thomas. Necklace, €305, Alexis Bittar, Loulerie
Kimono coat, €890; trousers, €390, both Richard Lewis. Shoes, €150, KG by Kurt Geiger, Brown Thomas. Belt, stylist’s own
Top, €190; trousers, €390, both Richard Lewis. Shoes, €150, KG by Kurt Geiger, Brown Thomas. Belt, stylist's own
Dress, €890; trousers, €390, both Richard Lewis. Shoes, €165, KG by Kurt Geiger, Brown Thomas. Necklace, €645; bangles, €65 each, all Alexis Bittar, Loulerie

'I hate fashion. I love style. Just because something becomes fashionable doesn't mean you should wear it. You should wear what flatters you - your face, your figure," states Dublin dress designer Richard Lewis.

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If there was to be a movie about the life and work of Richard Lewis, it would be called A Subtle Man and it would be about a modest Dublin couturier who quietly transforms ordinary women through his creations.

Incredible as it seems to me, as the collection on our pages is so contemporary, this year Richard celebrates 50 years in the business of dress design.

"My success is because my work evolved with the clients," Richard explains to me when I ask about his design identity and longevity. "When I look back at my work in the 1960s, I see that my style didn't really properly develop for about 10 years. In the early days, I loved print. Now I don't use print anymore. But I always love jersey."

Richard's speciality is creating evocative, sensual, beauty-making clothes in jersey. He loves black but is a master of bold colour, used often in colour-block ensembles to further flatter the wearer. Above all, he is a designer who separates women from girls. This is couture for women who are proud of their sex.

"My whole ethos is that a woman looks good in the dress, not the dress looking good on its own. If a woman walks into a room and they say she looks great and are not talking about the dress, I have done a good job," Richard says.

At his latest salon show, held in the Peter Mark Style Club in South William Street, I noted, yet again, how many men attend Richard Lewis's shows. Men love Richard Lewis's creations and are happy to tell me they think he is the absolute best designer of clothes for women to look beautiful.

"Men like my clothes," Richard agrees as we discuss the changes in women and the new generation of customers he is attracting. "Fifteen years ago, you would never see a man in here. Now, husbands and boyfriends come in with their girlfriends and wives."

Last autumn, Brown Thomas was thrilled to have Richard Lewis's work in their Create show. "Brown Thomas did a wonderful presentation. I believe students from some of the fashion colleges came to look at my work. God, I feel old," Richard laughs.

I congratulate the tutors who encouraged their students to study from a master of understated design.

"You can't judge my clothes from a hanger. You have to try them on," he says. "I always look at a client's face first, and if they look relaxed and comfortable in a piece, I know it will work and thereafter it is just a case of tweaking."

This easy, caring, approach is what singles Richard Lewis out and makes his creations the stuff of women's dreams.

Photography by  Antonina Zharko

Styling by Courtney Smith

 Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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