Tuesday 17 October 2017

Creative force: Brown Thomas's Irish designer initiative

Brown Thomas’s Irish designer initiative, Create, is having a truly epic romantic moment and an excellent fashion adventure

Floral quilted jacket made from repurposed vintage fabrics; matching quilted shorts, part of installation, both Laoise Carey, Brown Thomas 'Designer to Watch' Bursary Prize Winner at the National College of Art and Design Graduate Fashion Show 2017. Photo: Andrew Nuding
Floral quilted jacket made from repurposed vintage fabrics; matching quilted shorts, part of installation, both Laoise Carey, Brown Thomas 'Designer to Watch' Bursary Prize Winner at the National College of Art and Design Graduate Fashion Show 2017. Photo: Andrew Nuding

You may know that it is tough to make it in the fashion industry. But do you really understand just how tough it is? It takes not just a pretty little investment of, say, €10,000, but several millions (and many years) to create, launch and sustain a new clothing brand.

How can a ready-to-wear aspiring designer in Ireland, from modest means with no connections to the international cognoscenti, ever hope to 'make it'?

This conundrum has become something of an obsession with Brown Thomas Group Fashion Director, Shelly Corkery, an obsession that is given full voice in the company's Irish design project, Create, which kicks off for its seventh year on Monday, July 3, on Level 1 in their Grafton Street flagship store.

Shelly is hugely concerned about sustaining the future of the Irish fashion-design industry. Yearly, she personally meets with and enlightens National College of Art and Design's, (NCAD) graduate year as to the realities of retail, as they are about to embark on their careers.

"Create has always been about being really focused on finding and developing talent," Shelly explains of the Create process, which she does with equally Irish-design-talent-obsessed Fashion and Retail Consultant Edmund Shanahan. "I love identifying unique talent such as Domino Whisker, and then finding the student with the most potential graduating from NCAD. The idea is that by being consistent and present, giving them our vote of confidence, that in five years' time, one of these bright young things will be in a position to develop a full collection."

Excitingly, this year's Create is host not only to exceptional new Irish talent - such as Sarah Murphy (who graduated from Griffith College in 2016); Sinead O'Dwyer (a conceptual designer who graduated from Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in 2014, to work at Alexander Wang); and Michelle Kearns (a bespoke milliner) - but also to some of our older and bolder designers.

I thought Create's getting Mary Gregory out of retirement and into producing one of the best collections of all of 2016, was a masterstroke. But this Create, Shelley and company have tempted cashmere-mistress creator, Lainey Keogh, into an Irish store for the first time in over eight years.

There is nothing so hopeful, nor magnificent, as the drive to Create.

Photography by Andrew Nuding

Styling by Darren Feeney

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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