Wednesday 17 October 2018

Ethereal Creations - Ireland's exceptionally talented avant garde fashion designers

 

Body brace, £730; bolero, £1,250; hip cinch, £595; skirt, £1,250; model's right hand: bracelet, £325; cuff, £110; model's left hand: cuff, £160, all pieces are 100pc Italian vegetable-tanned leather with gold-coated, 100pc solid-brass fittings, all Una Burke
Body brace, £730; bolero, £1,250; hip cinch, £595; skirt, £1,250; model's right hand: bracelet, £325; cuff, £110; model's left hand: cuff, £160, all pieces are 100pc Italian vegetable-tanned leather with gold-coated, 100pc solid-brass fittings, all Una Burke
Bespoke hand-crafted, hand-engraved, silver and gold rings, from €300-€900, all Pierce Healy. Leather and silk-chiffon strapless dress with Swarovski crystals, €1,895, to order, Claire O’Connor
Mohair/silk mix hand-knit cardigan, €920; mohair/silk/alpaca mix hand-knit scarf (worn around waist), €370, both made to order, Fintan Mulholland
Silk-jersey drape crop top with oyster-pearl embellished detail, €1,195, made to order, Claire O’Connor
Cashmere and cotton blend sweater with ostrich-feather detail, €580, Sarah Murphy

In just 60 years, Irish design has evolved from something that built its reputation on what resources it had (tweed, linen, knitwear) to being equal to and as artistic as any other country.

This time of year is fecund with design graduates from our colleges, finally stepping out of education and into the arena of working creatives - a path that is no easier than the gladiatorial combats of the old Colosseum.

Today, we are celebrating the uniques of Irish design. These are not the usual names you will come across in fashion editorial, for theirs are edgier, sometimes more 'difficult' design voices. But these are the people who are (or soon will be) designing for and dressing some of the world's biggest 'names' and power-players.

Many of these brilliant talents have made London - that great benefactress of the unusual, the marginalised and the unconventional - their home.

Bespoke hand-crafted, hand-engraved, silver and gold rings, from €300-€900, all Pierce Healy. Leather and silk-chiffon strapless dress with Swarovski crystals, €1,895, to order, Claire O’Connor
Bespoke hand-crafted, hand-engraved, silver and gold rings, from €300-€900, all Pierce Healy. Leather and silk-chiffon strapless dress with Swarovski crystals, €1,895, to order, Claire O’Connor

In London, Claire O'Connor's haute couture work has found a client base of businesswomen and royalty, that reaches Russia on one side and California on the other. Likewise, London has been good for the amazing Una Burke, who creates for the most influential and powerful women (and men), including Lady Gaga and Madonna. I recommend you visit her website (unaburke.com) and be amazed.

What I also find fascinating about these Irish creatives - and I include London-based stylist Graham Cruz, who curated our shoot today - is the gothic romance inherent in everyone's work.

I could write, and seem flippant, that perhaps they all read too much Mary Shelley, Bronte sisters and Willkie Collins when they were young and impressionable. Simply put, there is something dark and romantic about all these Irish creatives, be it 'newbies' such as the brilliant Fintan Mulholland and Sarah Murphy, both knitwear specialists; or Pierce Healy's extraordinary jewellery.

Maybe it's attributable to our landscape. Clothing and handbag designer Alison Conneely is inspired by the phosphorescent stone of her local Connemara famine walls and the moss that grows upon them. Thus unusual texture and colour combinations are a characteristic of her work.

Roisin Gartland, an artist as well as designer, responds at a visceral level to the animal skins that she handles with reverence and works hard so as not to distort from which creature they came. Her preservation of a skin's raw beauty is why wearing a Roisin Gartland piece feels so connecting to the animal, much as that might seem a contradiction.

Jewellery designer Janice Byrne is inspired by the natural world, be it Dublin's canals or a Wicklow vista; creating raw, rough, beautiful pieces that can be like an expression of the soul. How naturally Irish.

Photography by Peter Evers

Styling by Graham Cruz

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

Sunday Independent

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