Heidi Higgins: Stable hands
In 2008, in the aftermath of the global economic crash, I had many conversations with people in fashion who predicted this was the death knell for emerging Irish design.
Two years on, I am happy to report that our fashion schedule is full of wonderful new Irish talent.
Heidi Higgins graduated from NCAD in fashion before starting her own label in May 2009. "While in college I did all my summer work experience, and the first year after, with Louise Kennedy, but I was really bursting to do my own thing," she told me.
Though only 25, this woman has a classic, mature design eye that strongly appeals. She opened a boutique and design studio in her hometown of Portlaoise in March.
"I suppose I seem young to be so focused. But I can't imagine myself doing anything else. It is what I love," she says. "I always loved Irish designers. I did my thesis on Lainey Keogh, Daryl Kerrigan and Louise Kennedy. The Eighties sounded so exciting, with all the initiatives to support Irish design. The industry here is very supportive and helpful. I think we are getting a buzz again."
When I first met Heidi in the office of Harris Agencies (no relation), I instantly focused on a long, fitted frock coat in black wool. It is the sort of formal coat I haven't seen in 20 years, and it looked spot on.
Her current collection is mainly black and navy with flashes of pink, purple, truffle, coral, blue smoke and teal, in wool-crepe and silk-satin pieces in sizes 8 to 16. Her designs are figure-flattering, and they don't put pressure on the wearer to be gym-body perfect. Heidi has a little of Richard Lewis's ability to make the demure become sensual. "I like very classic tailored pieces. But I like fun pieces too. I like easy dressing -- that you can throw on a pair of tights and shoes and be dressed," she told me.
She does do some special commissions and bridal but not, she explains, "typical wedding dresses". In her boutique, Heidi stocks Yummy Tummy support wear, a selection of shoes, bags, laptop bags and belts by Penelope & Parker London, jewellery by local goldsmith Helena Malone, and some Heather Finn knits.
"Starting out, The Loft in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre was fantastic for me. It is really important, as a designer, to sell your work and learn from people as they buy. I would recommend it to other new designers. It gives you confidence and a chance to be a little more adventurous when you might be tempted to keep it too commercial. It helps you get the balance," Heidi says.
A commodity we all need. Heidi Higgins has it in spades.