Style Fashion

Sunday 23 October 2016

Unfolding potential: Ireland's fashion and accessory designers

Constance Harris

Published 04/01/2016 | 02:30

Merino-wool and Lurex knit dress, €895, Honor Fitzsimons. Origami cuff, €98, Capulet & Montague. Shoes, model's own.
Merino-wool and Lurex knit dress, €895, Honor Fitzsimons. Origami cuff, €98, Capulet & Montague. Shoes, model's own.
Leather dress, €685, Manley. Wide-brim hat, €250, Laura Kinsella.
Embroidered sweatshirt with mesh inserts, €308; lacquer skirt, €185, both Jill De Burca. Acrylic earring set, €63; acrylic ring, €48, both Capulet & Montague.
Top, €35, Cos. Vinyl and Perspex hat, €545, Martha Lynn.
Derbhla,far left, wears: Metallic-leather dress, €678, Manley. Earrings, €179, Chupi. Rachel, left, wears: Metallic-leather jacket, €378; metallic-leather skirt, €378, both Manley.
Derbhla, above left, wears: Silk print dress, €550, Helen Steele Rachel, above right, wears; Silk print dress (worn open), €750; print jumpsuit, €725, both Helen Steele.
Irish-linen coat with tie details at the shoulder, €595, We Are Islanders
Denim dress, €450, Natalie B Coleman.
Cotton top, €35, Cos. Model's left hand: 9-carat-gold cuff, €2,060; sterling-silver plain cuff, €440; silver stacking ring (on little finger), €95; large ring, €340; slim ring, €180, all Maria Dorai Raj. Model's right hand: long slim ring (on middle finger), €180, silver contrast ring (on ring finger), €190, both Maria Dorai Raj.
Left hand: Gold bracelet, €129; twig gold bangle, €169; double-strand ring (on thumb), €99, all Chupi. Right hand: Star ring, €129; ring, €99, both Chupi.

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.

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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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