Tuesday 19 March 2019

Desert Storm: Knitwear

Silk dress with back detail, €498. Floral headpiece; tights, both stylist's own.
Silk dress with back detail, €498. Floral headpiece; tights, both stylist's own.
Textured wrap, €138; V-neck slip, €85; textured fingerless gloves with ribbed detail, €58.
Large wrap with detailed sleeves and collar, €180; tiered evening dress, €698. Shoes, model's own
Knee-length dress with cuff detail, €295; textured scarf, €68. Tights, stylist's own
Layered lace dress with fitted waist, €485. Rose and tulle headpiece; tights, both stylist's own.
Long-sleeved dress with v-neck detail and tiered lace, €750. Shoes, model's own. Floral headpiece; flowers; ribbon, all stylist's own

Knitwear may be a new concept to international designers, but not to our own Irish designers, with their broad reach and fabulous application of yarn.

At least Galliano had the sense to consult Lainey Keogh when he was exploring knitwear in his pre-millennium collection for Dior.

Sadly, because we were more interested in international brands back then, Irish knitwear was relegated to the back of aspirational wardrobes. But thankfully, we never lost our sensibility for this most traditional of fabrics, as Lainey Keogh, Tim Ryan and sphere one kept the flag flying.

Now, a new star is emerging in Lisa Shawgi, a young designer who has me very excited — she is an impressive talent. Her work is sensual, undulating, contemporary, romantic, colourful and severe.

Born and raised in the Sudan until her teens, with an Irish mother and an Egyptian-Sudanese father, Lisa’s work is all about her cultural mix.

“My background is a huge influence,” she said, “with the mix of the cultures. It’s only recently that I became aware of it, and have found my identity through it,” she told me. Lisa is a graduate of NCAD’s fashion department. After her studies, she worked for a year at Lainey Keogh’s studio, and then did a year at Vera Wang, in Brown Thomas, on the bridal couture side of things. “I learnt a huge amount from Lainey,” Lisa explained. “That you can be commercial, but still have your own stamp in what you are producing. I also learnt about the importance of research and technology. From Vera Wang, I got the opportunity to hone my skills at a couture level, while Dublin City Enterprise board helped me hugely in setting up my own business.”

Lisa’s style stamp is uber-fine yarns: generally synthetic with natural-fibre mixes, woven into diaphanous lace concoctions; long, lean, extraordinary shapes and bold colour contrasts. Autumn is a brooding sensual mix of pewter, navy, oxblood, lichen, black and cream. Her spring is all candy pinks and girlishness. Frills play a big part, but used in a wholly new way. A flattering bodyline is always maintained, but there is always movement going on somewhere.

“This is where my cultural background really kicks in,” she said. “A lot of my pieces are very fitted above the waist and then are layered around the waist the hips and arms, allowing for movement — I suppose it is the whole belly-dancing thing.”

At a time when fashion is markedly lacking in sensuality and womanliness, Lisa Shawgi’s work is not only original — it’s vital.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY GERMAN COLLINS

STYLED BY VANINA SANCHEZ

FASHION EDITED BY CONSTANCE HARR

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