The home of couture
Couturier Jen Kelly's sumptuous fashion show in his north Dublin Georgian home, back in 2009, was the last hurrah of the good times. It was a dramatic and confident presentation of stunning beauty, glamour and luxury for the woman who lived a busy social and public life.
We haven't seen the like since.
But, despite the recession and several other challenges, Kelly is still producing sumptuous, luxurious clothing and, if anything, he is better at it than ever.
One of the last true couturiers in Ireland - a designer who handcrafts luxury clothing - Kelly is reborn. He looks great. He has come through the recession. He has love in his life. In conversation, his voice is full of energy; his collection reflects his optimism.
"There was a lot of soul-searching after everything that happened," he tells me as we sit in his gorgeous salon. "But for me, life really is about the craft that I do. Hand-made, bespoke clothing is what I love to do. The fabrics are designed and made, everything is hand-made. I make a toile of everything, and everything is made twice before it is finally made and fitted for that person."
Jen Kelly is all about beauty and class. He makes beautiful day coats that one would wear to meet the Queen and look gorgeous in a photograph. His day wear is smart-luxurious; his evening wear is all about elegance, elegance, elegance.
In Kelly's atelier, there are several stunning, full-length, silk-crepe, bias-cut gowns, appliqued with exquisite, hand-made French lace. "There are no balls anymore, but I have to do the gowns because I love making them," he says.
Though there may be few balls, these gowns serve to show brides-to-be what they can expect if they order their gown from Kelly - pure gorgeousness. "I design to make the most of a woman. We will do whatever a customer wants. My design becomes hers," he says.
When I viewed his collection, I didn't expect to find items such as the gorgeous pleated skirt in soft-pink jacquard, which would look stunning with a skinny cashmere sweater. Nor the cool, black-velvet opera coat, cut on the circle.
Kelly sources his fabrics in small mills in France and Italy, which produce for the couture houses of Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Kelly's fabrics for this summer strongly feature silver and pewter metallic-sheen finishes, which he teams with baby pink, blue and cream. For night, he adds black and a touch of leopard print. Milliner Polly McGettigan creates hats to perfectly complement his work.
"It has been said to me that my designs can take two sizes off," Jen tells me. "I don't see why a woman who is heavier shouldn't be able to wear beautiful clothes."
The world of couture has always been exclusive. Jen Kelly makes it accessible, while retaining the qualities that matter - beauty, luxury, elegance.
Photography by Owen Behan, Fashion edited by Constance Harris