Saturday 21 September 2019

Five famous Irish designers and their even more famous clients

Couturier Sybil Connolly photographed at the launch of her US collection in June 1953
Couturier Sybil Connolly photographed at the launch of her US collection in June 1953
Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

Shakespeare once wrote "though she be but little, she is fierce."

That, of course, was in act three, scene two of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', however a similar sentiment could be applied to the fashion industry in Ireland, though it is but little, it is fierce.

Down through the years a number of supremely talented Irish individuals have plied their trade, designing for the good and great across the world, and here we take a closer look at five of our favourites.

Philip Tracey

The county Galway native has been designing hats since his days in the 1980s at Dublin’s National College of Art and Design (NCAD).

Tracey counts Alexander McQueen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga, as well as members of the British Royal Family among his clients.

Fun Fact: Thirty-six hats designed by Tracey were worn at the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.

A model wears a Philip Tracey hat

Jacqueline Quinn

Another graduate of the Grafton Academy of Fashion Design, in the early days of her career Ms Quinn worked for a British manufacturer that designed clothes for retailers including M&S and Topshop.

Today she is the creative director for the Levy Group and oversees the Betsey Johnson Collection and Avec Les Filles Collection.

She has also been the head designer for Guess and Jessica Simpson, owned by G-III.

Ms Quinn counts Rachael Ray and Duchess of York among her famous clients.

Fun Fact: Ms Quinn worked as both a designer and stylist for the 2012 and 2013 Grammy Awards


Jacqueline Quinn


Orla Kiely

Today based in London, Ms Kiely began her career designing hats before moving on to handbags, with the “Orla Kiely bag” today quite the distinctive item.

Having qualified as a textile deigned from NCAD, in 2016 sales at her company increased by 15pc to €9.2m.

Ms Kiely’s clients include Kate Middleton, Kirsten Dunst, and Alexa Chung.

Fun Fact: Ms Kiely was one of six contemporary Irish fashion designers to feature on a set of stamps issued by An Post.

Irish fashion designer Orla Kiely

Neilli Mulcahy

One of Ireland’s leading fashion designers of the 20 Century, Ms Mulcahy studied haute couture for six months in Paris with Jacques Heim. This was to be a deciding influence as Neilli's career was mainly as a couturier.

In October 1952 she opened her own atelier in Dublin, where she also worked and collaborated with friend and milliner, Elizabeth Fanagan.

Her work became well known in the US and in 1959, when president Sean T O'Kelly visited the US, his wife (Neilli's aunt) wore all Neilli Mulcahy

Fun fact: She was well known for her stance on women needing pockets in their garments, a radical position when one thinks of the pervading slavishness to silhouette of that era!

Sybil Connolly

Dublin-based Sybil Connolly was well-known for creating haute couture from Irish textiles.

The woman whom Vogue once described as 'the vitamin C of the Erin-go-Couture movement', her fashion label’s clients included Jackie Kennedy.

Fun fact: she was described by former Taoiseach Jack Lynch as "as national treasure".

seum of Dublin (11).jpg
Couturier Sybil Connolly photographed at the launch of her US collection in June 1953

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