Sunday 18 March 2018

Bairbre Power... fashioning your own closet

When friendship stretches beyond school and into a business

Grace O'Rourke and Aoife Connolly in their Grape and Gander sportswear pieces. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Grace O'Rourke and Aoife Connolly in their Grape and Gander sportswear pieces. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Grace O'Rourke puts their and Grape and Gander sportswear through its paces
Aoife Connolly gets to work in their Grape and Gander sports wear
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

I'm constantly dreaming up madcap ideas for things I'd like to invent around the theme of fashion - anything that makes life fuller, easier and less stressful.

Each time I stop at a corner to swap my high heels for flats-in-the-bag, I make a silent note-to-self to 'get on with it', and invent those shoes: the ones that have spring-loaded heels that disappear, magically, into the sole of the shoe when you want flats, and then spring back into action when you want height again - a trick achieved by tugging on the subtle, strategically-positioned bow!

James Bond moments aside, recently, I turned into a mumbling mess when I had the pleasure of meeting fashion entrepreneur Liam Casey (with Jefferson Hack, so double the respect factor) at Brown Thomas as they unveiled the AnOther Digital Limited Edition digital version. I was upbeat about enlightening Liam about my vision for a techie handbag after hearing that the slogan of his company, PCH, is: "If it can be imagined, it can be made." However, I stayed shtum about the bag and the idea is now only shared with curious friends, over wine, and they find it illuminating (there's a clue!). Alas, I've filed the bag under 'must do' for now, but hats off to dynamic duo, Grace O'Rourke and Aoife Connolly, the bright sparks behind Grape & Gander, Ireland's first luxury sportswear brand. They met in secondary school at St Joseph of Cluny, Killiney, became best of friends and their teenage nicknames for each other stuck - (Grace is Grape) - and morphed into a fashion partnership.

Fast-moving Grace won the challenging 10k Hell and Back race two years in a row and she is in the top five ranking on the Irish high-jump circuit. The blonde had a very personal reason for wanting to develop functional luxury sportswear - as a personal trainer, the former international event rider works in one of Ireland's top corporate wellness suites at Vodafone, so she's in workout gear every day, every week.

Aoife worked with Stella McCartney on both sides of the Atlantic and developed a love of nutrition and healthy eating. Achieving a 3st weight loss in the past, she understands the importance of a balanced lifestyle, and the positive effects on personal wellbeing. Yoga has dominated Aoife's attention for the last three years and she takes part in yoga retreats all over the world. Now she can bring her own sportswear brand to stretch out in.


Watching those curves

The three pieces in the Grape & Gander debut collection are made from a meryl-lycra blend and were carefully designed to make sure they accentuate the natural curve of the female figure. The block-colour panelling on the sleeveless top (€45) and zipped jacket (€95) flatters the silhouette, and the high-waisted pants (€75) hug the waist. The curving nature of the purple and black pants was worked, and re-worked, until the girls were satisfied that it delivered the best possible shaped bum. All the pieces are seam-free on the sides to eliminate friction during exercise. The silky smooth lightweight fabric has particular compact properties that increase protection from UVA and UVB rays, making them an ideal partner for training sessions under the sun. The pair have plans to add to the collection later this year. BUY: Available at

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