Thursday 23 March 2017

Ella Boo: Rise to the occasion

Constance Harris

Linen-mix, print-trimmed jacket, €210; printed-cotton top, €120; linen-mix pants, €110, all Ella Boo.
Panama trilby, distressed by stylist, €75, Shevlin Millinery
Linen-mix, print-trimmed jacket, €210; printed-cotton top, €120; linen-mix pants, €110, all Ella Boo. Panama trilby, distressed by stylist, €75, Shevlin Millinery
Printed-cotton dress with obi belt, €269, Ella Boo. Panama trilby, distressed by stylist, €75, Shevlin Millinery. Shoes, Brown Thomas
Metallic, crinkle-cotton coat, &eur;270; Metallic, crinkle-cotton dress with obi belt, €185; bow headpiece, €55, all Ella Boo. Shoes, Brown Thomas.
Metallic, cotton, animal-print dress, €270, Ella Boo. Shoes, Buffalo
Acetate, basket-weave jacket, €240; acetate, basket-weave skirt, €150, both Ella Boo. Shoes, Brown Thomas
Cotton-mix, jacquard coat with satin trim, €270, Ella Boo. Shoes, Brown Thomas

Ella Boo is a new Irish occasionwear label created by Gerry Burke and designed by Grainne Walsh -- who had her own label in the Design Centre in the Nineties, before going on to Kilkenny's Art of Dressing label. In recent years she has been designing, among other things, tailoring for Victoria's Secret.

Grainne wanted to provide an occasionwear range that was softer, younger and more contemporary than a lot of such labels. She also wanted it to be affordable and have a wardrobe role beyond that of the special day itself. "I kept hearing stories of brides dictating what their mothers were wearing," Grainne tells me when we meet in the Ella Boo showroom in Fashion City, Dublin. "And I thought then that it should be a well-coordinated look, and there should be something for all ages.

"I wanted it to be a bit more expressive and younger than what is generally offered to mothers of the bride -- who are probably only in their 40s, or young 50s, anyway. Don't they say 40 is the new 30, and so on?" she says.

Grainne's style signature, which can be quite early-Sixties ingenue -- think Capri pants, smock tops and short swing coats in unusual prints and fabrics -- is still very much in evidence. But this collection doesn't feel retro, because Grainne has added a modernist sportswear vibe.

The cut is modern, as are details such as contrast panelling, funky jackets, drawstring waists and necklines, razor-sharp pencil skirts, flirty tops, and very feminine dresses.

The range is available in size eight to 18. "I did a lot of work on fit," Grainne says. "I am a size 12, yet, when I go out shopping, I might be a size 14 with one label and a size eight in another. It is confusing and frustrating for the customer. So Ella Boo's 12 is a real 12."

Grainne is a dedicated modernist. She adores new technology and new challenges. Back in the Nineties, she was the first to design a pocket for a mobile-phone. Apart from teaching Griffith College's new fashion degree course and being a consultant on several ranges, she has also created a product-shots promotional company called Pro Shots.

While this collection is very young in feel, her autumn range, though still very contemporary, has a lot of great pieces that will inspire all ages.

"I think we get too obsessed with trends. It becomes a race and all the meaning is lost. Magazines such as Heat put huge pressure on, and I think they have brainwashed people. Ireland has a different relationship with fashion. People trust staff and their boutiques," Grainne says. "They buy what they like, not just what is on trend."

Sunday Independent

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