Saturday 24 February 2018

A season for fun and fabulousness

The Brown Thomas ISPCC Fashion Show was memorable for many different reasons

Chloe
Chloe
Dries Van Noten
Gucci
Lainey Keogh
Magda Butrym
Miu Miu
Prada
Preen
Roksanda
Roland Mouret
Sacai
Stella McCartney

Constance Harris

When Caroline O'Sullivan of the ISPCC first took her place on the intimidating Brown Thomas ISPCC Fashion Show catwalk stage in front of 360 of Ireland's truly most stylish, wealthy women, she proved she knew how to get attention for what she cares about; Irish children and their lives today.

"Childline responds to 1,000 calls every single day," Caroline firstly informed us, which in itself was a shock.

"Last year 77 secondary school students took their own lives, of these, 66 were boys and 11 were girls. The youngest boy was just 12 years old.

"People often ask - what brings a child to the point where they feel there is no hope? Where they think that nobody cares? That they think people would be better off if they were gone?" Caroline, who is interim CEO of the charity, stated.

"This is a question that cannot be answered because each and every child is different. But what we can tell you is that Childline receives calls from these children who feel hopeless, and where there is no light at the end of the tunnel. A lot of these calls begin with our Childline volunteers just hearing sobs. That can continue for about 10 minutes until they have the courage to speak.

"Childline's job is to make sure that these children's voices are heard. That talking will make them stronger and that we will always be here. We see them, we hear them and we will support them to get through whatever difficulties they are facing."

That is the truth everyone wants a child to know: we love you, we want you, we value you.

"They were extraordinary and sad stories to hear that would break your heart," said Shelly Corkery, Brown Thomas group fashion director, to me after the event. "It was so shocking to hear the numbers of young boys taking their own lives. Your heart goes out to them and their families."

Shelly, like a lot of the women in the room, is the mother of a teenager. In fact, this was a room with a large concentration of mothers in it, many working-women. I saw several faces whiten with fear. Some, I knew, had been there and survived the worst that we imagine life can dole out.

So, though the Brown Thomas ISPCC Fashion Show is an excuse for a fabulous day out of fashion, it is also a day that many people gather and celebrate the fact that they and their friends and their mothers, whom many are with at this glamorous event, are alive and able to celebrate the day that is in it and support children into the bargain. To date, this Brown Thomas sponsored event of 17 years has raised over €1.1m for ISPCC services. That is €1.1m that wouldn't have been there but for this idea, this store, these women.

This Brown Thomas ISPCC Fashion Show was made extra special by former British supermodel, the gorgeous and funny Erin O'Connor being MC, and looking stunning dressed in Peter Pilotto, the brilliant design duo who also were in attendance.

Pilotto and Christopher de Vos, partners in design and in life, had literally just flown straight in from Japan from their three-week holiday/research trip there and were full of the joys of life, sharing their experiences of Japan, totally relaxed and ready to enjoy Irish high society.

"The guys were so nice and charming," Shelly said. "It was lovely to see designers make an effort and come across the water to visit us here in Ireland, instead of the other way around. It makes a nice change."

Make no mistake; getting Peter Pilotto to Ireland was a coup. This is one of the most exciting independent brands in the world today. Who knows, in 10 years' time they might be heading up Givenchy or Dior and then we will never, ever get the chance again to buss cheeks and natter about Japanese people's desire to never give offence or applying the principles of Zen to cutting the stem of a flower.

But back to the show. The show. Oh my GAWD, what a show. So much beautiful and exciting clothing, flown in especially from all over the world. We were treated to exclusive show-pieces by Prada and Dolce & Gabbana, Saint Laurent and Sacai. It was a dynamic and exciting presentation from the world stage of fashion, as well as what we in Ireland will take for ourselves. "This year, we tested the waters a bit more with more alternative looks and brands," Shelly told me of Brown Thomas's buy for autumn/winter which was reflected in the catwalk show. "Fashion is changing, and it is a lot more fun. Even though it is about power dressing, the waist, the shoulder, looking strong and directional, with minimalism like Celine going on - there is definitely way more fun going on, too.

"All the brands are changing their look. Gucci is very much the leader in retro and alternative thinking and he (Alessandro Michele) has caused a 360 in fashion for sure. Really it is leading the way. Prada and Miu Miu's Collector look. Every brand seems to be mixing colours, mixing textures - tweed mixed with nylon, feathers and faux fur, short and long, the backs of outfits being as important as the front. There is a tremendous energy about. Fashion is fun again."

Fashion's new fun character is attributable to the amount of young designers now heading up the big houses who know how to work social media and attract younger customers. But older customers want change, too. Maybe even more so.

Alongside all the fun and contrast so fundamental to this season, it is also markedly womanly with lots of beauty for the professional woman in which to dress exquisitely, evocatively, elegantly, at work, at play.

Mannish tailoring in Chloe and Stella McCartney, a throwback to Woody Allen's Annie Hall, have brought the Great Coat, oversize trousers and sweaters, back into wardrobes.

Then, it is a legs season; mini dresses, thigh-high slits in fast-walking skirts and dresses, to the long/short skirt. Magda Butrym's bottom-hugging mini was one of the sexiest movers of the show.

"The trapeze is still around," says Shelly. "St Laurent with the slouchy boots for all the girls with good legs, is particularly sexy. Miu Miu… is a strong look. But, so is the midi to full length. It is a season of options.

"I do think sometimes we all wish for too much change," Shelly says, sagaciously, I feel. "As a customer you want something different, and very much as a fashion person, you want something new. New ways to buy, new ways to think of fashion. But, for sure, fashion is about what is important again - having choice and fun."

All clothes featured are from The International Rooms at Brown Thomas Dublin.

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