The top 25 most influential people in Irish fashion
They're the people who shape what's in our stores, what we reach into our wardrobes for and the hottest trends. Here, our fashion editor brings you the definitive list of the leaders of Ireland's fashion and retail industry
1. Shelly Corkery
Fashion Director of the Brown Thomas group, Shelly literally has the biggest designer spend of any woman in the country as she orders thousands of outfits each year. The Cork-born fashionista influences so many of our wardrobes by the choices she makes in Milan, Paris, London, New York and all style capitals in between. The mum-of-one has a cool style of her own and possesses the sharpest eye - all the better to spot new talents coming through. Her decision to buy into Victoria Beckham when a lot of people dismissed the former Spice Girl as an intruder into the world of fashion proved, in hindsight, to be an excellent move. VB is now firmly ensconced in the hearts of Irish customers at Brown Thomas, along with Stella McCartney, Celine, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Miu Miu, to name but a few. It was Shelly who introduced French labels like Sandro, Maje and The Kooples to Ireland. In recent years, she has devoted a lot of time to building up 'Create' as an annual event to showcase, and support, established as well as emerging designers. The exposure and mentoring means she is the one person students want to meet and impress when they leave fashion college because she has the power and influence to introduce them to the market place and into customers' lives.
2. Breege O'Donoghue
Group Director at Primark, mothership of Penneys, Breege O'Donoghue is the most senior and powerful woman on the fashion retail scene here as the company now stretches across two continents and 10 countries. For years, Breege was the only woman to sit on the board of Penneys in Mary Street and with its march on Europe, she has very much taken the reins and driven their communication policy and HR. Born in Boston, north Clare - a fact that went down a treat with the Mayor of Boston when Primark opened its first US store last September - Breege is an indomitable force who likes to lead from the front, which is why she makes a practice of learning the language of every new territory that Primark goes into. That means that Breege now speaks eight languages and is learning Italian in advance of Primark opening near Milan next month, in the home of Armani, Prada and Versace. Remarkably straight-talking, Breege doesn't suffer fools gladly. Tough but fair, her career advice, which she delivered to the Image Awards in 2014 when she won a Lifetime Achievement award, was as follows: "Be true to oneself, show courage, independence, initiative, appreciate the need to recognise, respect and value differences. Know right from wrong, be ethically aware. Be satisfied only with the best, do not be clothed in power and status, but generous in heart, mind and spirit."
3. Simone Rocha
Journalists are running out of superlatives from the fashion lexicon to describe the work of this 29-year-old Dublin-born designer. Simone's inexorable rise to the top of her game has been closely watched at haute couture level and her ability to influence shopping tastes is so visible, the talk on the boulevards of Paris is that she could be a future creative director at Lanvin. There are so many strings to Simone's designing bow, from clothes to shoes and bags, can other licensed products be far away? She has done one-off collaborations but the potential to influence us with optical and lifestyle products like her dad, John Rocha, are obvious. If grumpy men wonder why so many women like wearing men's brogues, look no further than this former Alexandra College girl who thrills with her ability to make brogues look wow with perspex and crystal heels and studded with rhinestones.
4. Louise Kennedy
A fashion veteran of more than 30 years, this Thurles native is enjoying unbridled success across generations, with enormous cachet and popularity in fashion clothing, bridalwear, handbags, perfume and fine jewellery. An enviably chic Georgian town-house on Merrion Square and a swish store in Belgravia mark her out for special attention amongst aspirational shoppers. Blessed with an eye for detail, she has taken over the mantle of the jersey queen from Richard Lewis who was formerly known as Ireland's answer to Jean Muir. Prestige undoubtedly comes from dressing two Irish presidents, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese as well as the current first lady, Sabina Higgins. In recent years, Louise has become the first port of call for many 'mothers of the bride' and has influenced many customers of late to 'buy well and use often,' which translates as: cashmere coats go as well with jeans and flat shoes as they do with silk dresses and Louboutins, so get the value out of your luxury buys.
5 Laura Whitmore
The Loreto Bray girl with the "chicken legs" that she hated as a young one has become one of Ireland's most successful celebrity style exports and now, with her rapidly growing television profile in the UK and beyond, Laura, who left Ireland to join MTV, is now a household name there. What she wears is chronicled in newspapers, magazines, blogs and on the Twitter machine, and designers and brands consider the blonde Irishwoman as a major influencer. They work through PRs to get their clothes on her back for the red carpet but, a lot of the time, Laura goes shopping herself and likes that hands-on approach rather than relying on stylists 24/7. She is never anywhere but FROW at London Fashion Week and commentators believe she influences other women because of her ability to constantly change up her look and look different, so they are intrigued by her. She is the straight-talking girl-next-door in ripped jeans and ankle boots, and can morph into a designer dream or rock chick with attitude with equal ease.
6. JW Anderson
This Magherafelt lad who worked in merchandising in BTs in Grafton Street when his dad, Willie, was coaching Leinster Rugby, is now global blue chip in the fashion world. Jonathan William's powerful ambition and clarity of purpose marked him out early in his career. In case we were in any doubt of his power to influence, finding Anna Wintour rushing to be at his shows speaks volumes about the amount of sway he wields in the world of international fashion. His concept of a shared wardrobe by boys and girls has now moved mainstream and doesn't raise as many eyebrows as it did when JW first proposed it. So why are we surprised? The Irishman was ahead of his time. Since being appointed Creative Director of Loewe in 2013, he has revived interest in the Spanish leather brand with trophy pieces such as the much sought-after 'Puzzle' bag. And if we needed any more confirmation of his status, it came in a double whammy last year when the British Fashion Council voted him Best Womenswear Designer and Best Menswear Designer of 2015. JW was the first designer to ever achieve that honour.
7. Carolyn Donnelly
The Birr-born designer has been influencing Irish women's dressing styles for more than 35 years and is now at her most powerful and influential. Dunnes Stores is growing its mass of Irish design talents at an incredible rate and as creative director, Carolyn eyes up new talents, oversees the in-house brands as well as driving her own label, Carolyn Donnelly - The Edit. The retail scene here is tough and about to get even more interesting with the arrival onto Grafton Street shortly of & Other Stories, a sister brand to H&M. For some brands, that might be a problem, but not for Donnelly who has been exploring the parameters of a cool lifestyle brand for several years now. She knows her customers' likes and dislikes when it comes to a collection crossing clothing, bags, shoes, jewellery and accessories. Indeed, she has been vigilant about taking her own style story across the full gamut of the brand so it's amounted to quite some love affair when customers can wear her all day, and through the night, and surround themselves with her homewares in every room of the house.
8. Amy Huberman
What is it about the girl-next-door qualities of this Loreto Foxrock girl that turned her into our Alexa Chung quite so fast? Shops and online brands crave what's become known as the 'Amy Factor.' If Amy wears it, it sells out. If she tweets about it, you get traction. If she jokes about it and posts a photo, it can go viral. That's some influence for a mum-of-two whose only formal fashion deal is for her Bourbon shoe range with Buddha Brand in Castleblaney. Even the shoes have the cuteness factor, named after her favourite movies and if she is spotted wearing them, there is a rush to buy them. Her wedding shoes, bought in the Hibernian Mall, remain popular and her 'Symphony' wedding dress, designed by Stephanie Allin and bought at Myrtle Ivory, is still selling almost six years after the actress/author said "I do" to rugby hero Brian O'Driscoll. It is only a matter of time before someone takes the cheque book out and offers Amy her own clothing line. In the meantime, she is sharing her love amongst lots of brands, including her favourite jewellery brand, Loulerie on Dublin's Chatham Street.
9. Barry McCall
The top photographer's work can be found everywhere from portraits to fashion shoots, advertising campaigns, magazine covers and point of sale imagery. Gifted in his field, a single image can replace a thousand words and he is sought out by top fashion brands to capture their next season's offerings. The angle of his shot, the lighting, the relationship he encourages the model to have with his lens, all combine to create that 'money shot' that makes us stop on the street and think: "I want to buy that."
10. Pippa O'Connor Ormond
Marketeers look at Pippa and wish they could clone her. This young mum just has the Midas touch. I witnessed it myself last August when we were both judging Best Dressed at the RDS: women confessed Pippa was the last thing they read at night and the first thing they read in the morning. She has got to where she is today with a slew of Best Blog awards and her influence stretches into health, fitness, fashion, beauty, parenting, plus her own fashion factory workshops. Her ability to trigger footfall and sales means she is constantly approached to be the ambassador for products. That's quite some power for a Kildare lass who five years ago was doing model gigs and photocalls.
11. Orla Kiely
The influence of this Shankill-born creative is quite incredible - you can bask in her graphic print world 24/7. You can make breakfast in one of her kitchens, drive to work in one of her Citroen cars, dress in her clothes, carry her handbags, wear her Clarks shoes, get digital on her bespoke Apple Mac, stare at her wallpaper, and contemplate life sitting on one of her chairs. It's all about to get a lot bigger, as her UK reps indicated recently when Orla was a no-show on the London Fashion Week schedule. The publicist informed me that Orla is "doing something else very exciting in a different territory". Watch this Irish woman's influence expand even further.
12. Eddie Shanahan
This fashion retail consultant has fingers in so many pies, his influence in Irish fashion, craft and homewares extends the length and the breadth of the country. Once a model agent and marketing boss at Arnotts, the self-employed consultant knows the mechanics of the fashion industry from the inside out and he seeks to share intelligence he gathers from around the world. How independent stores look, how they display their clothes and how they view the growth of luxury brands probably go all the way back to this man. He can thrust a relative unknown onto a fashion stage with respected designers or help an existing brand find their business mojo again. Eddie's portfolio of Irish and international clients includes SMEs, state agencies, blue chip corporations and emerging talent. As chairman of the Council of Irish Fashion Designers, he has been instrumental in keeping many names operating through the recession and out the other side. He encourages clients to learn every element of the business and his work with 'Create' at Brown Thomas means he is on the radar of hundreds of students graduating this year. Among his favourite words are these three: "Point of difference."
13. Debbie o'Donnell
This TV producer originally from Cork is the powerhouse behind TV3's runaway success, Xposé. No other show in Ireland has had the same fashion impact as the TV3 teatime show and, as executive producer, Debbie heads up the team that calls the shots and decides who is on it and who presents it. Which is why, with two maternity covers coming up shortly, half the fashionistas in the country seem to be heading to Ballymount to audition. Designers and shops report that the minute clothes are featured on the show, they sell out. The mix of footage from international catwalk shows mixed with friendly 'I Can Do That' makeovers and celebrity interviews seems to be working like a treat with the hundreds of thousands of Irish women who, when they get home from work, turn on Xposé to find out what's happening in the world of fashion.
14. Catherine Condell
You will never, ever find stylist Catherine Condell in front of the camera talking about her work or doing interviews about why she put this with that. That is most definitely not her style. Catherine is old school: she is far happier letting the camera and the images tell the story. Her signature work is full of detail and covetable pieces that send you rushing to read the credits to see just where did she find that. Catherine's work has graced all the top glossy magazines here and she works with creatives on shoots abroad. Her AW15 shoot for the October edition of Image using lots of paste jewellery on winter wools was all about classic winter staples with a luxurious embellishment and it was acclaimed widely as one of the best of the season.
15. Darren Kennedy
Weekend's fashion columnist needs no introduction - the always impeccably-dressed stylist is known for combining sharp tailoring with a street-style edge, and has charmed fashion's elite, befriending the likes of Carine Roitfeld and Tom Ford. In recent seasons, the Dubliner recently tried his hand at fashion design, collaborating with Louis Copeland on a successful suit range. He hosted RTÉ2 style series Trending and runs helpmystyle.ie, where he shares grooming tips, style diaries and updates from Fashion Week.
16. Louis Copeland
Sharp threads, smart stores and the gift of the gab has ensured that Louis Copeland remains very visible in the world of Irish menswear. Talk about mixing with the right set, Louis has the Midas touch when it comes to dressing visiting celebrities. Case in point is Conor McGregor who was throwing shapes around Louis' emporium long before the world discovered the fast talking, fast moving Drimnagh man with a penchant for loud suits. Instagram: @LouisCopeland_and_sons
17. Philip Treacy
He most certainly doesn't want to be known as a milliner - the man from Ahascragh, Co Galway, is a hat designer and his influence permeates the hat scene here and around the world. His pieces sell for four-figure sums but ask any regular race-goer, and these hats pay for themselves because they last and their impact is like nothing else. Some milliners feel the need to channel Philip's signature looks a little too closely which is why, more than 20 years after he left for Britain, it feels like he is still very much at home.
18. Angela Scanlon
This Titian-haired lass from Co Meath is attitudinal, ballsy, fearless when it comes to interviews, adventurous when it comes to dressing up and as a blogger and writer of fashion, she is witty and self-deprecating - all of which makes her a hugely popular font of knowledge. She has been massively influential in selling Irish designers to a British audience. And she has done more for the Breton top than most and deserves a Légion d'Honneur from the authorities in Brittany for making the stripey top part of so many Irish women's wardrobe. Talk about influencer, vive Angela!
19. Paul Costelloe
Straight-talking got Paul Costelloe into the most awful hot water almost 20 years ago but he sucked up the tongue lashing and the vitriol and has now emerged a major player and influencer in the fashion and lifestyle sector in Ireland. Some designers do cross-generational but Paul does it cross-family and into the home. Women wear his Living Studio range from Dunnes Stores, he has two ranges of menswear, a rather endearing range of traditional-style dresses for little girls as well as affordable Communion wear, and his homewares decorate the homes of the rich and famous. I know because I've seen it - from his leather frames to lamps, fashion illustrations and faux fur throws. Talk about being productive at 70, Paul laughed recently at London Fashion Week about how there was still life in the old dog yet. It seems that he is coming back into the groove: if you watch Twitter, you will see just how much the celebrities want to wear his new AW16 collection. Vogue Williams, now a key influencer in Britain, was out and about in one of his navy jackets last weekend and Una Foden from The Saturdays told me how she, her rugby player husband and her children all wear Paul Costelloe. He may not have dressed the Duchess of Cambridge yet, but somehow I doubt if he is chasing royals. He already dressed Diana 25 years ago.
20. Peter O'Brien
Peter O'Brien is Ireland's most experienced couturier, having worked at a number of French couture houses. He worked at Christian Dior under Marc Bohan, at Givenchy, and as a senior designer at Chloé before being appointed creative director at Rochas where he worked for 12 years, designing womenswear and accessories, and overseeing menswear, perfumes and licenses. Now back in Ireland, Peter's influence on the fashion world continues here and the couturier magic comes once a year with the delivery of his annual AW collection. This exclusive collaboration with Arnotts is driven by the store's Director of Fashion, Deirdre Devaney, and Irish shoppers have been known to wait to buy their winter coats until they've seen what Peter O'Brien has done for the new season. The curiosity builds year on year and Peter has added accessories including hats, gloves and scarves to meet the public demand. Peter is also a bridge to the glamorous, dramatic world of theatrical costume design where his work at The Gate continues to attract audiences. His contributions on Twitter (Peter_Obrien) are erudite and his Instagram is food for the eye and soul.
21. Ian Galvin
This Tramore man has had more influence on the Irish fashion scene than most people realise when they see him strolling along the beach with his dog, Boo (pictured above). Ian cut his teeth with the design brands at Brown Thomas and after that, he went on to introduce a swath of new UK brands to the Irish retail scene including Whistles, Hobbs and Karen Millen. He has worked extensively with Helen McAlinden who has interests in fashion and also worked on interior design projects with Foxford. Sadly, Ian's last brand project, Bastyan finished production last autumn, much to the chagrin of Irish fans. He currently works on Aurora who have Coast, Warehouse, Karen Millen and Oasis.
22. Ella de Guzman
For a woman who moved here from Vancouver and didn't speak a word of Irish, it's ironic that a play on her name should produce Siopaella, the most successful pre-loved designer website and store network in the country. It opened in January 2011 and petite, powerful Ella has turned her Canadian business model for consignor shops into an Irish success, with a string of shops in Temple Bar and online service serving customers in Ireland and beyond. Why has she been so influential? The fact that she pays cash for designer handbags certainly helps and has made lots of customers trade up which is good news for Siopaella shoppers because the stock is always changing. Ella is a firm believer in the financial sense of buying key brands like Chanel because they hold their value.
23. Ingrid Hoey
Give this Dubliner a celeb to dress, then put them on the telly and I can guarantee that whatever they were wearing will sell out. It's happened with Kathryn Thomas and Sharon Corr on The Voice and endless times with Amy Huberman who Ingrid styled, and the pair became good mates. She is respected as a taste influencer not just because of what she scopes out and dresses people in, but because of her own distinctive taste which includes Tim Ryan knits. Ingrid learned the business from the bottom up. She spent eight years as the Buying Director for F.X. Kelly Menswear in Dublin (formerly on Grafton Street). She has completed merchandising and visual display courses in London with The Visual Display Team at Armani, and has trained with Ermenegildo Zegna in a made-to-measure service for gentlemen's suits.
24. Suzanne Jackson (aka SoSueMe)
This model-turned-blogger and now fashion stylist on TV has made so many critics eat her humble pie! They didn't get it when this radio station receptionist started writing a blog and critiqued beauty products, but she has succeeded in proving them wrong with a string of sell-out fashion events, two books, a beauty line with nail polish and contouring palette, plus an army of fans who follow her recommendations to a tee. Suzanne's ability to sell make-up brushes is legendary. The blogging scene has exploded in Ireland, and Suzanne has proved definitively that she influences teenagers, 20-somethings and 30-somethings as evidenced by her business success handled by her agent, Jules Fallon at 1st Option.
25. Independent retailers
Independent retailers are the lifeblood of the Irish boutique scene and owners like Clodagh Shorten of Samui in Cork, Ruth Ní Loinsigh of Om Diva in Dublin, Louise Flanagan and Kate O'Dwyer of Kalu in Kildare, along with the Frock Advisor pair, Brendan Courtney and Sonya Lennon, have impacted hugely in this sector. However, Nikki Creedon, of Havana in Dublin's Donnybrook, holds very special influence not least because she is the sole Irish stockist of Simone Rocha.
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