8 Young Irish Designers to Watch
The National College of Art and Design's Fashion Show 2014 showed the rising stars of the industry; Freya Drohan gives her verdict on the eight style stars who caught her eye
As a nation, Ireland has yet to truly find its fashion identity.
However, the collections of fifteen final year students in National College of Art and Design’s Fashion programme prove that the future of the industry is in meticulously capable hands.
From womens handbags to Dublin architecture, there was a myriad of inspiration behind the capsule collections which each comprised of six thematic outfits.
Name: Tish Carroll
Where from: Sligo
What you need to know: She holds the prestigious title of DIT Designer of the Year to her name. Her collection “Mother’s Say” was inspired by photographs of her grandmother as a child and other images of children wearing ill fitting clothing.
Verdict: The androgynous but elegant tailoring of Tish’s check trousers, pinafores and asymmetric jackets was sublime, accentuated by the addition of raw silk ties as belts. This was a collection of separates that could go straight from catwalk to boutique floor, much like the work of the group’s sole male, Andrew Bell.
Name: Andrew Bell
Where from: Dundalk, Co Louth
What you need to know: He just completed an internship with J.W. Anderson, who evidently taught him a thing or two about creating “smart clothes for smart women”. While commuting to college, “instinct orientated” Andrew was struck by how women on the LUAS bore their handbags like status symbols or plaques; his collection “Wrap. Clench. Clutch. Consume” delves into this relationship.
Verdict: Vivid coral trousers, oversized crepe blazers in taupe and striped crop tops made from deck chair fabric bought in London formed the basis of this wearable collection. Andrew also created coats which connected into large flat clutch bags; a nod to how the bag is an extension of the woman who wears it.
Name: Alice Doherty
Where from: Blackrock, Dublin
What you need to know: Alice had her first taste of exposure when she won the River Island bursary last month. She was approached by a prospective customer immediately after the show - River Island are on to a winner here.
Verdict: Alice’s collection “Allusive Contrasts” showed her adept ability; wearable Giles Deacon-esque abstract prints were elevated to high fashion status with her structured silhouettes and beautiful array of fabrics such as crinoline, georgette, organdy and knitted wire. A
Name: Amie Egan
Where from: Tullamore, Co Offaly
What you need to know: If the jet set crowd tire of their Moncler or Gorsuch, Amie Egan should be their next port of call for luxe ski wear.
Verdict: Amie’s collection “Gut Instinct” was a response to the changing environment, inspired by raw materials, hunting, Inuit culture, and clothing that is purely driven by function and necessity. Models stalked down the runway with attitude in Amie’s fur capes, structured jackets and ponchos. Amie, inspired by the ethical approach to fashion adopted by Dame Vivienne Westwood, said that her design goal is to create “relatable clothes, but still push the boundaries”.
Name: Audrey Kenneally
Where from: Tramore, Co Waterford
What you need to know: She sought inspiration from the Google building in the Docklands, which she photographed and turned into a digital print.
Verdict: The influence of designers like Mark Fast and Peter Pilotto was evident in her eye catching prints and innovative knitwear techniques. Experimenting with how to create the illusion of movement, Audrey created a collection of acrylic separates in a cohesive colour scheme styled with an athletic edge.
Name: Rachel Duke
Where from: Knocklyon, Dublin
What you need to know: As Simone Rocha continues to make waves internationally, Rachel Duke’s refreshing approach to fabrics and her incongruous outfits could mean she is next. Rachel’s collection showcased her hand crafted fabrics and incorporated painted seams, macramé stitching, exposed pockets and embroidery.
Verdict: In a palette of white and blush pink and styled with flat brogues, the collection had a sweet and innocent vibe and would ideally be seen on the likes of Cara Cara Delevingne or Abbey Lee Kershaw according to Rachel. As was to be expected, there were also two highly conceptual collections that wouldn’t look out of place in a show by Maison Martin Margiela, Rei Kawakubo or Comme Des Garcons.
Name: Gwen Cunningham
Where from: Clontarf, Dublin
What you need to know: In all of her collections, Cunningham aims to tell a certain story. In this instance, the story was a reflective narrative of how a fashion design is conceived and its ultimate demise at the hands of the wearer. The attention to detail in her collection “Everything Is Worthless Again” is incredible.
Verdict: Each aspect from the fabric experimentation to the silhouettes representing a stage in the design process from the inspiration to the production, sale, life and death of a garment. The addition of sycamore wood hangers- a collaborative project between Gwen and Offaly teenager Conor Lynch- elevated this avant garde collection of tulle, linen, cotton and wax pieces to a world class standard.
Name: Elaine Cawley
Where from: Castlebar, Co Mayo
What you need to know: Inspired by the work of photographer Francesca Woodman, Elaine explored self representation, seeing one’s own body from an elevated and distanced visuo-spatial perspective and the relationship between the garment and the body.
Verdict: With light silks and jerseys stretched over angular frames and billowing hems making stunning movements, this collection combined the design aesthetics of Thierry Mugler and Rick Owens.
When asked about their plans for the future, all bar one of the above designers said they would be leaving the country to pursue employment, and Gwen Cunningham pointed to the graduate class of 2013, who are all working abroad.
In an industry that is often pervaded by connotations of superficial and ruthless individuals, here there are no airs and graces, and each designer is evidently driven by ambition and a genuine passion for their craft.
There is a bubbling pot of talent and creativity brewing - Ireland just needs to wake up and realise it.