Irish design royalty: How Irish designers are owning the fashion world
Fashion has long been a powerful tool, used for self-expression and identity. For centuries, clothes were a statement that separated monarchs from the everyday person. Kings and queens would dress in the finest material and designs, and anyone who laid eyes on them would instantly know that they were royalty. Things have since changed. In 2018, fashion belongs to everyone.
Today, you can easily mirror the style of two of the most iconic members of the royal family, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. With their ever-increasing links with Irish designers, their wardrobes are more accessible to us than ever. However, you’ve got to be quick – once either of these fashionable ladies are seen out and about in anything, it usually sells out extremely quickly.
Two such Irish designers, who have worked with these women and deserve a place in the Irish fashion hall of fame, are none other than Philip Treacy and Orla Kiely.
Philip, originally from Co Galway, is one of Ireland’s most notable designers and milliners. Based in London and known worldwide for his stunning designs and ability to create a masterpiece, he regularly toys with the balance between classic and daring.
Throughout his career, Philip’s hats have been adored by celebrities and sought after for some of the world’s most exclusive events and red carpets - a chic and subtle Treacy creation will finish off any A-lister’s outfit perfectly.
Film makers are also fans, with Philip creating the pale blue Beauxbatons Academy hats in the Harry Potter film - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
It’s been a big decade for royal weddings, and in turn a big decade for Philip Treacy hats. Between the wedding of William and Kate in 2011, and the most recent wedding of Harry and Meghan this year, he created no less than 46 hats for these occasions. Everyone from Victoria Beckham to Oprah Winfrey showed up in one of his designs, each looking as magnificent as the last.
Philip also has a quirky side, evident by his 2010 telephone hat for the Lady Gaga waxwork at Madame Tussauds, which wowed the world with its off the wall design. This isn’t the only time the pop princess has collaborated with Ireland’s favourite milliner though. He is also the mastermind behind many of her other wacky and wonderful head pieces, such as the now-famed diamond-studded lobster hat.
Perhaps the greatest testament to the scale of his success is the seal of approval he has received from fellow designers and some of fashion’s most influential people. Philip’s hats have been worn by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen and Alexander McQueen, to name a few.
Often referred to as ‘The Queen of Prints’, Orla Kiely is one of Ireland’s leading fashion exports with stores all over the world - from South Korea to New York. Her bold patterns and designs are easily recognisable, and all carry the same ‘Orla Kiely’ essence.
Having grown up in Shankhill, Co Dublin, Orla now lives and works in London, a city known for its fashion-forward thinking and style influence over the rest of the world. Orla has taken the city by storm, and is a regular feature at London Fashion Week.
With a background in textiles, wallpaper design and knitting, she has taking a lifetime of skills and transformed them into a growing empire. The Orla Kiely range now includes homeware, stationery, accessories and jewellery. Not to mention the dresses that go straight from the catwalk and into the closets of Hollywood’s elite.
Fashionista Alexa Chung is just one of the many stars who has slayed in Orla’s designs. Alexa, who is consistently found among the pages of the fashion bible ‘Vogue’, is well known for her impeccable style as well as her countless contributions to the fashion industry. Other big names include Oscar nominee Keira Knightley and Golden Globe nominee Kirsten Dunst.
With an honorary OBE for her services to business and the fashion industry under her belt, it is no surprise that Orla’s designs did not go unnoticed by members of the royal family. The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, often shows up to public events and occasions in an Orla Kiely creation – promptly leading to it being snapped up and vanishing from store rails around the world.
Orla and Philip are just two of Ireland’s many gifted designers. With more and more Irish creators on the rise, you can be sure that the Irish will continue to own the fashion world for years to come. To learn more about Ireland’s creative minds and delve deeper into the story of Orla Kiely and Philip Treacy, visit the ‘Creating and Designing’ gallery at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin and explore the impact Irish fashion design has had on the world.