Friday 30 September 2016

All about the fabric for Caroline Kilkenny's AW 2016 collection

Published 22/08/2016 | 02:30

Grace, right, wears: dress, €213, Caroline Kilkenny. Tights, Falke.
Audrey, far right, wears: dress, €237, Caroline Kilkenny. Tights, Falke
Grace, right, wears: dress, €213, Caroline Kilkenny. Tights, Falke. Audrey, far right, wears: dress, €237, Caroline Kilkenny. Tights, Falke

'For me, this fabric was the lynchpin of the whole collection," says Caroline Kilkenny, lifting a ballerina skirt in a vivid, abstract print. "Generally, you would build a story around all the fabrics, but in this case, the whole collection is inspired by this one. That's unusual. It just keeps giving you little treats and treasures with the colours. It's like a beautiful oil canvas; it reminds me of a [Gustav] Klimt painting."

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This Italian fabric has inspired a line so rich and bright, it could be for spring/summer, rather than Caroline's autumn/winter 2016 collection. (The fabric itself is used in two dresses ; Grace wears one opposite; and the other on page 37.)

The collection, which features burnished golds, corals, light pink and berry fuchsia, as well as black and white, is a slight design departure from previous years, Caroline acknowledges. "It's less proper," she says. She has opted for fabrics that skim rather than mould to the frame. "I wanted to move away from body-con, from The Good Wife style of dressing."

For structure, she has gone for crisp taffeta and neoprene - "It's so wearable; you're not constricted in a tight dress. Every fabric that I pick, I try and see that there's some movability," Caroline says. As well as the abstract print, there's a cute cat print which suggests the Mods of the 1960s; and a Bowie-esque lightning-print dress, a motif also used on a sequin top.

Caroline added black leather inserts to soften the pretty, overly feminine look of some pieces. Where spring/summer is very occasion-outfit-led, autumn/winter collections offer a lot more tailoring that is suitable for the working woman's wardrobe: trousers, coats, jackets, tops. "It's still dressy, but some of it you could wear to the office. It's for women who want to look the part. I suppose a man's version is a suit," Caroline explains.

The new direction may have been partly inspired by Caroline's sister, Nicola, returning to the label, taking charge of business development. The two sisters originally set up N&C Kilkenny together in 2001. Nicola left in 2006, due to the demands of motherhood, and later to pursue further studies. "It's nice to have someone who you click with completely in work; someone to share the pressure," says Caroline of her sister's return.

In her absence, Caroline closed the label, which was then N&C Kilkenny, for two years; four seasons. "I wanted to go back with something different," Caroline says of her return to design in January 2012, with the newly named label, Caroline Kilkenny. "I wanted to do something designed, but more commercial; to be less expensive."

This season's collection is grown-up, with lots of interesting design touches and unexpected fabric combinations, but it's still eminently wearable. "You're trying to design a label that is still commercial, but also you want to have good design, and keep it contemporary and unusual, because otherwise it's soulless; otherwise you can't do it."

Photography by David Poole

Words by Liadan Hynes

Fashion edited by  Constance Harris

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