Unfolding potential: Ireland's fashion and accessory designers
Here we feature 11 of Ireland's brightest and best fashion and accessories designers who, as part of Irish Design 2015, were selected to show their spring/summer 2016 collections at London Fashion Week last September.
Irish Design 2015, or ID2015 as it was marketed everywhere, was a genius idea by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCOI) to raise awareness of Irish talent at home and abroad by dedicating an entire year to it. I take my hat off to Karen Hennessy, CEO of DCCOI, and Brian McGee, who was acting CEO while Karen focused on ID2015. Also to Alex Milton, programme director of ID2015.
It was hard not to be aware of ID2015. From billboards of designers and craftspeople at Dublin Airport, to stories in newspapers, ID2015 was in our faces.
For the first time since the 70s, when everyone was buzzing about the Kilkenny Design Workshops, Irish design and crafts were celebrated, admired, shown off.
As part of ID2015, Alex Milton and fashion and textiles advisor Aisling Farinella, working closely with Brian McGee, created a programme to celebrate Irish fashion. It kicked off in spring 2015 with In The Fold; when eight Irish designers took part in an international fashion collective organised by the British Fashion Council.
Following that, a plan was revealed to select and support a further 11 Irish designers, to enable them to show their collections at London Fashion Week. The 11 were offered mentoring and support and became Unfold; a specially curated area at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and an 'on schedule' event at London Fashion Week.
The chosen 11 were: clothing designer Natalie B Coleman; designer Jill De Burca; sustainable fashion label We Are Islanders; leather specialist Manley; print specialist Helen Steele; knitwear specialist Honor Fitzsimons; milliners Laura Kinsella and Martha Lynn; and jewellery designers Chupi; Maria Dorai Raj; and Capulet & Montague.
"Unfold provided a unified platform, showcasing designers as an Irish collective," Aisling Farinella explains. "There is a real strength in being a collective. There is a consistency and a coherence to it. It provides a structure upon which to build. All the designers said they benefited from it."
Showcase, the annual, State-supported trade show - where most of our craftspeople truly make their living from exports - kicks off later this month. It will have a specially curated area called The Knitwear Project, to celebrate that section of the industry.
As yet, there are no further plans to support Irish fashion designers.
"We started something with Irish Design 2015. Next, we need to see it grow," Aisling says. "We need to continue to build support for our Irish designers." Let us hope it happens before all is lost.
Photography by Andrew Nuding
Styling by Kieran Kilgallon
Fashion edited by Constance Harris
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