Wednesday 7 December 2016

Nature's beauty in range by Sophie Rieu

Constance Harris

Published 30/11/2015 | 02:30

Silk-satin top, €259; silk-lined, wool-crepe skirt, €289, both Unicorn by Sophie Rieu. Photo: Patrick McHugh.
Silk-satin top, €259; silk-lined, wool-crepe skirt, €289, both Unicorn by Sophie Rieu. Photo: Patrick McHugh.
Kid-mohair batwing top, €249; silk-lined, wool-twill/Lurex-mix pencil skirt, €275, both Unicorn by Sophie Rieu. 50s cluster earrings, €45, Vintage La Touche. Organic silk/cotton/wool tights, €35, Living Crafts, The Garden of UnicornShoes, model’s own. Photo: Patrick McHugh.
Kid-mohair and wool top, €195; silk-lined, wool-crepe trousers, €295, both Unicorn by Sophie Rieu. Photo: Patrick Mchugh.
Merino-wool-fleece coat, €565, Unicorn by Sophie Rieu. Shoes, €150, Paul Green, Azur. Tights, designer's own.

Regular readers of these pages will know that I love witnessing people in the process of change. I have seen it so many times - resistance is faced, change is embraced and happy transformation is the result.

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I feel this is what is happening for French-born, Greystones-based, sustainable and ethical designer, Sophie Rieu. She has designed under the Unicorn label for nearly 13 years, but 2016 marks Sophie laying claim to her work. To ease the transition, for this season, the label is called Unicorn by Sophie Rieu. Then, next season, it will be simply Sophie Rieu.

"It has been a long time coming," Sophie tells me. "But it feels very good to be making this change."

To mark the new direction, Sophie, with support from Wicklow Local Enterprise Office, has created sophierieu.com, a new website and online store.

"I wanted my website to be personal," Sophie explains. "I wanted it to be full of personality and also to make it easy to use, easy to navigate. Patrick [McHugh], who designed it, did a very good job."

Patrick McHugh, who has long been an editorial photographer, did a lovely job also of photographing Sophie's range for our pages today, beautifully capturing the soft femininity and gentle sensuality of her designs, as well as her connection to nature.

"I called this collection 'Foliage' because I found that when I played with the coloured silk linings, when I folded in the colours, they reminded me of the leaves in autumn," Sophie explains. "Like the way leaves have different colours in the sunlight, I have layered colours in this collection in that way."

This collection is one of Sophie's Rieu's most interesting yet. It is full of freedom and vitality, colour and interesting new shapes. Pleats, batwings, longer lengths, bold colour combos and new fabrics are just some of the news. All are made from ethically and sustainably produced fabrics from the EU, and the range itself is made in Dublin.

Winter 2015 is the second season that Sophie has worked in collaboration with knitwear designer Edmund McNulty. They have created stunning colour combinations in striking knitted tops made in alpaca, kid and chunky mohair.

"I went to Edmund with a palette of colours to match my own, with my own designs, and together we came up with the collection," Sophie explains.

Sophie will be showing her entire collection, and the Living Crafts range of silk/wool/cotton underwear and thermal wear that she carries in her Greystones store, at the RDS National Crafts and Design Fair, which begins next Wednesday, December 2.

Sophie is keeping the name of her store, the Garden of Unicorn - it's just opposite the brilliant Happy Pear cafe (Her store is open, though the building can look closed!). This is a time of big changes and happy progress for Sophie Rieu.

Photography by  Patrick McHugh

Fashion edited by  Constance Harris

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