Sunday 15 December 2019

Ephemeral constructs from Carlow milliner Laura Kinsella

Viscose tank top, €185, Joseph; shell top (worn underneath), €1,375, Celine; cotton shorts, €390, Marni, all Brown Thomas. 'Naphrax' hat, €405, Laura Kinsella.
Viscose tank top, €185, Joseph; shell top (worn underneath), €1,375, Celine; cotton shorts, €390, Marni, all Brown Thomas. 'Naphrax' hat, €405, Laura Kinsella.

Constance Harris

I must admit that when I first saw Carlow milliner Laura Kinsella's work, I didn't get it. And then I couldn't forget it. This, I have learnt, is the mark of something truly good.

Since then, I have been watching Laura's evolution as a milliner, and finding that not only do I understand her creativity better, but I am loving it more and more. Laura Kinsella's work is an entirely alternative design voice to enter the well-established world of millinery.

"I like to do things traditionally, even though my pieces don't look it," Laura tells me. "I do everything 100pc by hand. I dye everything by hand. I knit everything myself. I never use a sewing machine, or use spray paint."

Laura works mainly with yarn and wire, which she manipulates into unusual shapes. Some of her pieces are near architectural in their construction, but always, always, they are feminine and delicate, as well as distinctive.

"I first knit the yarn into the shape it is meant to be - square, round, and so on. Then I stiffen the piece on the block into its final shape. Then the piece is wired to keep its shape," Laura explains.

"When I am designing, what I create depends on what I am feeling at the time. I do have a look at trends because people are buying clothes from a season, so I need to be up with the colours and themes. Things that I like, such as an exhibition, or a movie, could influence me. It really is about what I have seen."

Unlike a lot of milliners, Laura's background is as a fashion designer; she studied fashion at Limerick School of Art and Design and graduated in 2008.

Upon graduation, Laura spent several years travelling and working in fashion. She returned to Ireland in 2011 and began her millinery apprenticeship, launching her own label in 2013.

"I was very lucky. I won the Kerry Fashion Week award for Breakthrough Designer in 2014, and Irish Milliner Of The Year in 2015," Laura tells me. "For Irish Design 2015, I was selected to show at the In The Fold exhibition in London, and then as part of the Unfold exhibition later in the year. All these things earned me a lot of good press.

"Life In Glass Houses is the name of this collection. I was looking at Antony Gormley's work. I love his style and the idea of a second skin in his drawings," Laura tells me. "I came across sea algae called diatoms. The names of the pieces for this collection all came from names of diatoms. Eocene, the mohair shroud headpiece, was influenced by the idea of second skin, a kind of protective skin."

Laura's latest good news is that she has been selected to show at London and Paris fashion weeks this September, as part of the BFC (British Fashion Council) Designer Showrooms. She has also been selected by NJAL (Not Just Another Label) to be one of 30 designers included in a special exhibition at Premier Classe, called The Future of Fashion.

Which Laura Kinsella sure is.

Photography by Eilish McCormick

Styling by  Kieran Kilgallon

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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