Why Green is the new black for top Irish designers
As Dublin Fashion Festival kicks off this week, Bairbre Power on how Irish designers have found themselves back in style
It's 16 years since Paul Costelloe was mauled for pointing out, in a very ham-fisted way, how hung up the Irish were with foreign fashion labels.
"Worse still, they will wear something hideously safe in the knowledge that it has a label," Paul declared, before comparing Irish fashion victims to "ambitious mutton" who were "only a couple of generations out of the bog".
I reported on the fall-out for the Irish Independent and, at the time, I felt a smidgeon of sympathy for Paul because I knew what had fuelled his ire. It was that insatiable, almost blind appetite for show-off, high-visibility labels (mostly Italian) that screamed 'look at me' and hinted at money like an unpleasant, cloying perfume. Subtle Irish labels were being kicked to the kerb and Costelloe wasn't happy.
Well, the tide had turned and Irish designers are currently enjoying the love they so rightly deserve. As consumers shop less and buy better, prices are not a problem for those intent on playing the green fashion card.
Simone Rocha, the undisputed star of London Fashion Week, stepped out quickly from behind the shadow of her famous designer father John. Now that he has retired from the 'high-end' fashion scene to concentrate on more mainline design contracts, Simone has become even more very collectible.
Not yet 30, her fan base stretches across two generations, five continents and the four-figure price tags at Havana in Donnybrook - her only Irish outlet - are not a problem for the Irish fashion customers who like playing the green card, especially if the label says Rocha.
However, 'guaranteed Irish' loyalties don't automatically roll over each season and you are only as good as your last collection, something the 15 new and established Irish designers at CREATE in Brown Thomas.
The name on everyone's lips was Helen Cody, who graduated from Dublin's NCAD 25 years ago with classmate mate Philip Treacy. She has experienced the vagaries of the fashion industry and diversified into interiors in the UK when the rag trade got tricky.
Now back living in her hometown, Helen, like Joanne Hynes, Orla Kiely, Lennon Courtney and veteran couturier Peter O'Brien (who launches his fifth capsule collection for Arnotts on September 16), are experiencing the warm glow of a new love affair with Irish fashion. It's a romance where bespoke dresses that take weeks to make and cost €2,495 are not deal-breakers.
While clients crave to look different, they like that local influencers such as Amy Huberman - she wore Helen Cody to the IFTAs and is what marketeers call a Key Opinion Leader (KOL). Another 'influencer' is stylist and TV presenter Angela Scanlon, who is the face of the Dublin Fashion Festival (DFF).
Many hardcore 'green card' shoppers will be at the Bank of Ireland, College Green, Dublin, tomorrow night for the catwalk show launching the DFF, which runs until Sunday with free fashion shows daily.
We don't have an official Fashion Week of our own with back-to-back designer catwalk shows so the DFF show tomorrow night featuring 12 'Young Designer of the Year' finalists will provide an important showcase before the Irish fashion cabal head off to the Spring/Summer 2015 collections in New York, London and Paris.
There's no point flagging up new designers and smart stores in Williamsburg, Dalston and the Marais if we don't recognise the talent and brilliance secreted away in studios, starter shops and cool boutiques around Dublin's Creative Quarter.
Meanwhile, savvy Costelloe returns to the London Fashion Week catwalks next week after an absence of two seasons. He knows the timing is right. Irish fashion has a place on the international map. This explains why so many global brands want to shoot their new season's campaigns here.
It's our fashion DNA they crave. It's ours to cherish.
The 'green cards' to watch as they soar
Danielle Romeril, a graduate of Limerick School of Art & Design is signposted as a name to watch after the British Fashion Council selected her as one of its NEWGEN designers.
This puts her in the company of illustrious names such as Alexander McQueen, Erdem and Christopher Kane.
Another Limerick graduate is Natalie B Coleman and her new SS15 collection is entitled 'Be Still My Bleeding Heart'. Her fans include the posh toned singer Chloe-Jasmine, who made her debut on the X Factor last weekend and has been a fan of the Monaghan designer from the start.
If the reaction to the arrival of the Lennon Courtney collection into the Kilkenny store in Galway for the first time is anything to go by - selling 13 pieces in a handful of days - its AW14 collection, with five 'hero' dresses, should sell like hotcakes.
Sonia Lennon and Brendan Courtney are taking part in the Girls Night Out event tonight, from 5.30pm at the Kilkenny store on Nassau Street.
It's an evening of DFF celebration with a free catwalk show full of Irish fashion taking place at 6.30pm. There is no cover charge.