The Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown is one of those events that capture the imagination. Unlike other meets, it is glamorous in an old-school, country way, but also embraces modern Irish savoir faire.
Which, when I met the Hennessy family in Cognac in France, turned out to be the way they dressed, too. Think Irish tweed suits and coats worn with bespoke shirts, topped off with hats, or caps, of personality.
The next Hennessy Gold Cup is on Sunday, February 7. This year is its 20th anniversary, and the fourth year of the Design Centre's association with the Best Dressed Lady award.
I love the Hennessy Gold Cup Best Dressed Lady because it is a competition that seems to provoke individuality. It is not all about wearing this year's Dolce, but rather about how good you are at portraying your own fashion stamp, while staying warm -- well, it is still winter!
This year the judges are Aisling Kilduff, owner and buyer for the Design Centre, milliner Philip Treacy, Caroline Sleiman of Hennessy and fashion blogger and stylist Annmarie O'Connor. The prize is a €4,000 gift voucher for the store, with a runner-up prize of €1,000. You can enter the competition by registering on the day at the new registration desk in the Tote Hall, or you can pre-register online atwww.hennessybestdressed.ie. But of course there will still be fashion scouts, because we all know what a reticent lot Irish women are!
"Irish women are very modest about their style," Aisling told me. "They love their clothes, but they don't like to scream about how much effort they put into their look." Aisling cut her teeth working with the best of Irish design and Irish customers, back in the early Nineties. Throughout the Celtic Tiger, when we all seemed to want only foreign designers, Aisling still kept a large part of her fashion floor full of Irish design while picking up edgy, international talent, such as Preen and Jasmine di Milo. "My customers always appreciated Irish design," Aisling explained. "But this past year, customers are coming in and the first thing they ask me is: 'Where are the Irish labels?' And the fact is, they are now nearly the whole store, such has been the demand."
Aisling has been scouting for new Irish talent. Philip Treacy, John Rocha, Roisin Linnane, John McCormack, Claire-Ann Lawler-Darcy -- most of us know these. But, I'll bet, not Claire O'Connor, Sean Byrne, Eilish Kennedy, Dawn Fitzgerald and Mia O'Connell. All are unique, gifted design talents.
Aisling's shop floor is a mixture of modern, sharp tailoring mashed with a soft, romantic, individualistic femininity. Practicality and beauty: a perfect combination for the Hennessy Gold Cup's Best Dressed Lady!
Photography by Andreas Pettersson
Styling by Niamh O'Rourke f
Fashion edited by Constance Harris