Saturday 21 April 2018

Back to Bohemia

Embroidered dress, €1,950
Embroidered dress, €1,950

Liadan hynes

Since moving home to Ireland several years ago, Helen Cody has successfully rebuilt her fashion business. Now, with her first show in almost a decade, she is about to become the only designer ever to put on a fashion show in Christ Church Cathedral. "It's a really big deal for me," she says of the event, all proceeds of which will go to St Francis Hospice. Tickets for the show are on sale now, from Havana; Costume; Só Collective, and St Francis Hospice (contact details in credits, page 37). Partly inspired by the show's location, for autumn/winter 2016, Helen has created a collection that is, she says, "Art. It's one million per cent more personal than anything I've done before."

Most of Helen's work consists of bespoke pieces developed for private clients. A show collection is "the message that I want to give people in general about how I think," she says. This collection sees much that is new compared to most of her recent work. "I turned 50 this year. You look backwards, and you look forwards. I went back through my own archive," she says of the inspiration behind this latest collection. "I've softened the edges of what I've been doing lately. There's a lot more flow, and a lot more movement.

"I wanted to get back to something that was slightly more bohemian. My work has become very structured, but my heart is in more gentle, floaty, bohemian things."

For the first time, she has used prints - subtle digital prints of her own paintings - something that she says terrifies her. "I keep putting in stronger things and then saying, 'Oh, no, take it off'. It's giving me a heart attack. I'm at my happiest when I'm lightly putting feathers on tulle." She has realised a long-held goal and included knitwear in her collection, working with Sarah Murphy, a graduate of Griffith College. Unusually for Helen, she cut on the bias, so the dresses "drop and fall; they drape around the body when they're moving."

There is also all the soft femininity and romance that one associates with Helen's work. This season is all about light and transparency, she says, but not in an obvious way. So there are sheer panels in the long dresses, which only reveal themselves when the wearer walks. A biker jacket is softened by being made in black lace. Silk-tulle T-shirts are worn under strapless dresses. Helen took linings out of several pieces to keep a sense of lightness. Dresses are built up in layers of fabric, creating a colour-wash effect, exactly as in a painting.

Helen has never compromised on her vision of how her work is created. "I just concentrate on 'how do we make each piece as perfectly as we can?'," she says. "There's so much stuff that's generic, so it's so important for me that I have a DNA that nobody can copy. The print in this collection is like a fingerprint. It's my painting, which was turned into a print. I just love that; that is mine. It can't be anybody else's."

Photography by Eilish McCormick 

Art direction by Paula Hughes

Words by Liadan hynes

Fashion edited by Constance Harris

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