Sunday 8 December 2019

Drama queen: Dublin-based designer Claire Garvey

Leather and silk-leaf peacock gown, €1,495, Claire Garvey. Hand-crafted headpiece, made to order, Mark Garvie
Leather and silk-leaf peacock gown, €1,495, Claire Garvey. Hand-crafted headpiece, made to order, Mark Garvie

Of all the designers working in Ireland today, it's possible that none is so true to their inner creative vision, with such spectacular results, as Dublin-based designer Claire Garvey. Her work is exactly the high-octane injection of femininity, colour, and individuality with which to kick off the new fashion season.

Claire is best known for creating pieces for brides and performers. Given the visual drama of her work, it is unsurprising that people turn to her clothes for the days when they need to make the greatest impact.

Claire's work is inspired by everything from the natural world to mythology. As well as working with an array of fabrics, including silk, organza, and lace, she embellishes her creations with found items, metal and beads.

Three years ago, she began creating menswear for the first time ever. The legendary American musician and producer Nile Rodgers, a David Bowie collaborator and guitarist with Chic, requested an outfit for a performance on The X Factor. "That was the very first jacket I'd ever made," recalls Claire. "Literally, I hated menswear until then."

That quickly changed, and a whole new side to Claire's business opened up. Her menswear retains all the ornate detail of the womenswear pieces, but it has a somewhat different aesthetic. "I love the difference in the men's and womenswear; [I enjoy] being really fancy with the women, and a bit more cool with the men," she says with a smile.

Now, her men's line is outselling the women's. As it's more unisex than the womenswear, it has also attracted a new female client. "My menswear is probably more edgy than my womenswear," Claire says. "Women are buying the jackets that I make for men, and the tops and collars. It's probably more edgy women that would be buying the menswear."

Claire's work has garnered a huge following among men attending the famous Burning Man festival in Nevada. Currently, her work can be seen on Julian Benson, judge on RTE's Dancing With The Stars, who is wearing blazers by Claire on the show.

In this shoot, though, photographer Tiara Rad came to Claire with the idea of doing a romantic womenswear shoot with her current womenswear collection, suggesting they create a fantasy, Alice in Wonderland-type fairyland.

The work here is the height of Claire's creativity, but simpler versions can be recreated. "We do a lot of weddings," says Claire. "As well as the classic white dress, we do a lot of second weddings, where someone can wear the dress again afterwards. A lot of people say my dresses make them feel like a different person."

That said, the intention is never to overwhelm the wearer. "It's making the person feel comfortable in what they're wearing; I want them to feel as good as they can feel in it," Claire explains. "If it's something simple, brilliant; if it's bizarre, fantastic, too."

Photography by Tiara Rad

Styling by Clem Charrier

Words by Liadan Hynes

Fashion edited by  Constance Harris

Sunday Independent

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