Wednesday 26 April 2017

Style: There's no place like home

A recent show proved that Irish designers, new and old, are just as good as their rivals, says Andrea Byrne

Animal print chiffon and Swarovski-embellished dress, €2,295, by Claire O'Connor
Animal print chiffon and Swarovski-embellished dress, €2,295, by Claire O'Connor
Lace dress, €569, by Irwin & Jordan
Nude cashmere knit, €298; white tunic, €129; white jersey trousers, €159, all Roisin Linnane
Brocade coat, €295, Ella Boo
Blue silk dress, €295, by Heidi Higgins
Purple and gold bodice dress, €1,299, by Synan O'Mahony
Burgundy silk jersey skirt, €320, silver lurex top, €85, black neckcuff, €190, all by Sean Byrne
White embroidered dress, €1,295; headpiece, made-to-order, both by John Rocha
Red dress, €1,200, by Lee Klabin; headpiece, €1,059, by Philip Treacy

The recent Fashion Exposure show at the Stephen's Green Hibernian Club, is one of the few platforms for young designers to showcase their creative talents to the kind of audience who buys designer wear, now that Dublin Fashion Week is no longer in existence and there is a growing trend among Irish retailers for ignoring Irish labels.

"Even established designers in Ireland don't have the resources to put on a full show, so to [share] the cost and to take part in something together was a great relief for us," says young designer Sean Byrne who recently returned to Ireland following an internship with Burberry Prorsum. And judging by his collection of draped jersey dresses and stunningly tailored coats, the leading fashion house has taught him a lot.

"It was fantastic," he enthused about the show, "to have established designers and new designers on the same platform together, because I suppose it makes the statement that we're all in it together. That's vital at the moment." While it's true that the Irish consumer should not be blackmailed into buying Irish purely on the basis of loyalty, if you had attended this show you would have realised that there's no need for duty purchases. Irish fashion designers have the acumen, originality and price competitiveness to rival their international counterparts.

This event, which showcased the designs of some of Ireland's finest fashion talents -- including stalwarts such as Philip Treacy and John Rocha as well as rising talents Claire O'Connor and Heidi Higgins, left the viewer confident about the future of Irish fashion, not to mention basking in a warm glow of pride.

"The show was a phenomenal success," organiser Fiona Foy-Holland said days after the show. "It is pre-booked for next year.

"We achieved what we wanted to achieve.

"It was good for the designers, it was good for the charity, it was good for the services that helped support us on the day."

The event, which is in its second year, raised €15,000 for the Order of St Lazarus.

MC for the afternoon, our own LIFE editor and TV frontman, Brendan O'Connor, had the 100 or so women, who included Caroline Harrington, JP McManus's daughter-in-law Anne Marie, Liz O'Donnell and Andrea Roche, giggling like schoolgirls as they lapped up his compliments and the champagne prior to the show.

The show itself had a real international, salon feel to it -- the kind of intimate showcase Victoria Beckham has been championing for a number of seasons.

Fresh-faced, stunning young models with soft hair and make-up, modelled to subtle, unshowy music, all of which fixed your attention firmly on the clothes.

Attendees also had the opportunity to buy after the show, and I'm reliably informed that they did so with gusto.

Irwin & Jordan, which is designed by relative newbie Zoe Jordan, daughter of former racing boss Eddie, was something of a revelation for women in the audience. Simple but sophisticated, contemporary but not overly trendy, mixing rigid with fluid, there's a touch of Stella McCartney about this young designer's spring/summer collection.

Rocha's collection injected an element of fun and playfulness into his trademark black.

Meanwhile, Higgins' collection was bright and beautiful. Ageless in its cut and style and easy to wear, it would suit everyone from mothers of the bride to women with aspirations to win Best Dressed Lady competitions. Ella Boo, which is also quite occasion-driven, was equally pretty, yet functional.

Claire O'Connor, the name on everyone's lips, presented a collection of stunning eveningwear that oozed originality and creative authority.

Roisin Linnane brought a laid-back vibe to the show with her soft jersey dresses and light knits.

Synan O'Mahony, who provided a finale to the show, was typically glamorous showing why Irish celebs continue to love him. Ashling Kilduff of the Design Centre, who was heavily involved in the organisation of the show, has always been a proud proponent of Irish designers.

"She is another unsung hero who puts herself forward, takes chances on young designers, and wants to grow it out. She knows how important it is.

"We don't want the talent leaving the country. We don't want them disappearing," explains Fiona Foy-Holland.

"It is important for us to move forward, to not take this lying down anymore, be reliant on ourselves, strengthen our economy, galvanise ourselves. [And ] beat this recession."

Photography: Tony Gavin

Styling: Aisling Farinella, assisted by Kieran Kilgallon and Kathryn Hay

Hair & Make-up: Dylan Bradshaw, 56 Sth William St, D2, (01) 671 9353

All clothes and jewellery from the Design Centre, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, 59 Sth William Street, D2, (01) 679 5863 or www.designcentre.ie. All shoes from

Fitzpatricks, Grafton St, D2, (01) 677 2333. Furs supplied by Barnardo Furriers, 108 Grafton St, D2, (01) 677 7867

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