Sunday 22 September 2019

Love me tender - the cashmere effect


Coat, €1,495; ribbed long mitts, €145, both Madigan. Blouse, €165, Claudie Pierlot; skirt, €1,100, Acne, both Brown Thomas.Suede boots, €1,395, Jimmy Choo, see
Coat, €1,495; ribbed long mitts, €145, both Madigan. Blouse, €165, Claudie Pierlot; skirt, €1,100, Acne, both Brown Thomas.Suede boots, €1,395, Jimmy Choo, see

What struck me about cashmere designer Elaine Madigan when I met with her was that she hadn't a bit of self-pity. So many of us (of course, I am talking about myself here) can wallow in what we have been through, not necessarily focusing on what we are succeeding in doing. Elaine is not one of those people - she is all optimism, all can-do, and it suffuses her work.

Though she opened a fashion boutique, Couture, in Naas, just as the economic downturn began, Elaine got on with things. She picked up her knitting needles to deal with her stress; something her grandmother and mother had taught her.

People started buying her pieces, so she made more. Then Liz Spillane of Limerick College of Art & Design suggested Elaine do their two-year knitwear design course to expand her skills. Today, Elaine has a thriving business here, online and in export. Last year, she opened her first Madigan store in the Westbury Mall. Her design ethos is to offer both cosy weekend looks - which tend towards softer, looser shapes and colours - as well as sophisticated sweaters and tailored cardigans, to better serve urban environs.

"I love colour," Elaine tells me. "I am absolutely loving what I am doing. My personality is very much in it. I am able to give a lot more of myself because of that, and people buy into people. We all want to feel good, with each other, with ourselves."

Madigan is a cashmere brand based on service. Serving people's needs in terms of styling, quality and colour, and also individual needs, such as shorter arms than regular sizing, or a bigger fit, or petite. Elaine will do it all.

"Well, within reason," Elaine laughs. "But I do want to be able to take care of people. I am about service. I am a front person. I am on the store floor and I learn from people, from what they try on, what people need and want.

Cashmere is ideal for work environs, as well as health-induced body temperature extremes due to, say, thyroid issues, menopause or cancer, because you can layer densities and not look bulky, and then peel on and off pieces according to need.

As we discuss Christmas gift ideas - Madigan's multi-adaptable collar-scarves for women (with helpful instructions); luxurious, masculine scarves for men - Elaine beams as she shows me her work, explaining yarns and colour mixes.

That is the cashmere effect, too, we both agree. It's a magical yarn; it makes everyone feel really, really happy and loved.

Photography by Anita Sadowska

Styling by Carmel Daly

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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