Sunday 11 December 2016

Fashion... Cool Natural from Jill de Burca

Constance Harris

Published 08/06/2015 | 02:30

Hand-beaded top, €285.50; headband with embroidered flowers, €196
Hand-beaded top, €285.50; headband with embroidered flowers, €196
Original-print dress, €392; scarf (worn on head), €196
Top, €196; A-line skirt with origami detail, €219.20; headband with embroidered flowers (worn as belt), €196
Top, €165.20; skirt, €179.20; headband with embroidered flowers, €196
Tunic, €207.20; headband with embroidered flowers (worn as belt), €196
Dress, €263.20; headband, made to order, €226

Last autumn, wafting around the Design Centre in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre as one does, I came across the most beautiful jacket at the back of the store: black, slightly kimono-style, with striking beaded embellishment.

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The label was Jill de Burca, a name I had heard whispers of, but didn't actually know. As you can imagine, I quickly rectified that omission.

Jill de Burca graduated from NCAD in 2006 as a specialist in embroidery. She left Ireland to do an internship in England with Pamela Quinn, following which she went to work for Jenny King, an embroidery specialist working with traditional Singer sewing machines. Jill also worked at Larch Rose of Brighton. She ended up working part of each week at both Larch Rose and Jenny King.

"Jenny King did all the embroidery for brands such as Erdem, Mary Katrantzou and Stella McCartney. Larch Rose was an amazing, sustainably shaped business," Jill tells me. "They did all their dyeing, assembling and embroidery. They had an amazing reputation. I started out as a freelancer, and soon was full-time, on the embellishment side of the company."

Jill developed an international reputation for creating one-off, embellished pieces that were sold by agents in London and New York to other fashion houses. This is still an important part of her business today.

"But I missed home. And I had reached a point where I had stopped learning," Jill explains. "I was basically sewing the same dress, season after season. It wasn't very inspiring. So I decided to leave. Then Erika in the Design Centre suggested I try doing a few pieces and see how it goes."

Jill de Burca is all about creating wearable pieces, with a slight sports-luxe feel - what she describes as having "a bit of edge". Jill adores the Natural History Museum on Merrion Street, and is much inspired by it; this season, feathers and birds are a strong motif in her collection. Embroidery and embellishment are distinguishing, luxurious features of all her designs, which are laid-back and effortless.

"My style is not necessarily commercial," Jill says. "I love really, really pretty things. But I love beautiful things to have an edge. Beading can put people off, which is a pity, as it is my favourite thing."

Jill de Burca is a designer that walks that exclusive line of street-cool and luxury. It's not an aspect that I associate with Irish designers generally, but Jill de Burca, along with Joanne Hynes and Natalie B Coleman, are changing my notion of what constitutes Irish design.

"It is a little bit tougher to do this kind of thing from Ireland," Jill tells me. "But I want to be here."

Age is just a number, Jill de Burca believes. Her clothes are for all women.

Photography by Lee Malone

Styling by Courtney Smith

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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