Despite radical changes in Lainey Keogh's world, our 'national treasure' is still true to herself, writes Constance Harris
'SHE'S A national treasure we really don't appreciate her enough." I overheard this comment at Lainey Keogh's extraordinary fashion show last week, held to raise funds for the Mayur Foundation, which helps the victims of last January's earthquake in India. The show was extraordinary, not just because of Lainey's work but because it was the embodiment of Lainey's life and world. Friends and fans were there to work and support in a Lainey-created love field.
My heart gladdened to hear someone who appreciated rather than worked in fashion say this. I feel the same way about Lainey. She is an artist. But because she works in fashion that fact is somehow never acknowledged.
Lainey, if truth be told, is envied by many in fashion. Her talent, and the media attention she attracts, so threatens them they love to reduce her importance in our industry. But the fact remains, Lainey is the most important creator in Irish fashion today.
Ironically, Lainey no longer sees herself as a part of the fashion world. She almost reviles it. She views her time 'at the top' as a phase, but not one she wishes to return to. She believes there are few people of any creative originality working in fashion today.
"Fashion needs creators who understand human nature," she told me.
"There's a relationship which must be honoured for creation to come about." She rates only John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto and Ray Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons as being true creators.
In every Irish fashion journalist's memory there was that magical period, back in the mid-Nineties, when Lainey's knitwear filled over half of a fashion editorial in American Vogue. @@STYL cf,mils
We all thought, this is it Lainey has broken into the big time. The collection was the first of its kind to come from this part of the world: luxurious yarns, contemporary shapes and rich symbolism. It was, in fact, an early indicator of the return of haute couture. But then there followed, as Lainey described it, "two years of black clothes and 12 shades of neutral".
Then, in 1997, Lainey held a fashion show in a working man's club during London Fashion Week. She broke all the traditional rules of fashion by asking friends, as well as professionals, to model. John Hurt read Seamus Heaney as the big, small, young and old models looked beautiful and powerful in their Laineys. Marianne Faithfull and supermodels Naomi and Helena were a coup. It was also the first time the then generously proportioned Sophie Dahl appeared. It proved to be history in the making. The clothes were evocative, sexy, sumptuous, luxurious, vibrant. For the second time Lainey entered the big league, and this time she stayed until she decided she wanted out.
"Two years ago I was ego and fashion ... and everyone (in fashion) needs to go through that stuff and then get beyond it."
She is categorical that she has left that world behind.
"I learnt so much there, it was amazing and everything ... but according to fashion there is no life beyond fashion time and I don't accept that. You can't be a perfect human being the whole time, you can't go in a straight line, it's not human."
Her present collection, as always, contains her own life ethos, a desire for joy and a faith in life. "Every single person I meet is a source of inspiration. Everyone speaks a personal language ... there is a moment of total magic when you capture the description of the character."
"We are so manipulated by our own aspirations, by our aspirational society. We have very demanding expectations of our lives. Greed has now been taken over by fear."
"Creation instead of fear" was the first thing Lainey had said to me when I sat down to interview her. I had assumed she was referring to the present world climate of fear, but I now realise this is what Lainey is; we have the power to change everything, if we only believe in our own power.
"People aren't aware of the potential of our power ... at all" (Meditation plays a huge part in the awareness of one's power). "I really feel an awareness 24/7.