Saturday 24 March 2018

Eme Vandal: Second coming

Jacket, made to order, €650;
skirt, made to order, €650; knitted wire
headpiece, made to order, €200.
Shoes, stylist’s own
Jacket, made to order, €650; skirt, made to order, €650; knitted wire headpiece, made to order, €200. Shoes, stylist’s own
Dress, €580. Briefs, €46.50, Hanro, Susan Hunter Lingerie. Silk leg bands, stylist’s own
Cape, made to order, €350; top, €450; mohair skirt, €360; knitted wire headpiece, made to order, €200. Shoes; knitted leg bands, both stylist’s own
Top, €260; skirt with leather belt, €189
Top, €450; tweed skirt, €280. Shoes, stylist's own
Dress, €580

Constance Harris

Eme Vandal is a new Irish label with a sophisticated design aesthetic. Recently picked up by discerning boutiques Havana and Dolls, the label is a triumph of will.

Alison Conneely, whose name some of you may know for her styling credits, created Eme Vandal two years ago, but then came the crash of May 2008 and she decided not to manufacture. It was a tough time -- the collection was very good.

Two years on, testing the waters, Alison developed a capsule collection in June to show some buyers and get some feedback, only to be blown away by their enthusiasm and desire to have it as soon as possible.

"I didn't design the collection until after everyone had done their spend for the season, so I didn't expect anyone to be buying. But they all really liked it and wanted it as soon as I could make it." Alison told me in her North Great George's Street studio, the Georgian environs of which are also home to couturier Jen Kelly and milliner Loulou Bricole.

Alison is from Faul, in Connemara. Her mum and dad are farmers. She grew up looking at sheep among the famine walls and stony fields that led down to the Atlantic. No wonder there is an air of magic. Listening to Alison, one could imagine fairy dust sprinkling down any moment, or ghosts popping out of the walls!

This collection, the resurrection of Eme Vandal, is serene in composition and execution. The colour palette is cardinal red, oxblood, cream and black, and the silhouette is a simple, elegant, body-skimming one. The collection features versatile capes, skirts, blouses, tops, knits, and some bespoke garments in fine sheepskin.

Though a graduate of Sallynoggin and Central St Martin's, Alison attributes much of her ability and design aesthetic to her years with designer Roisin Gartland. "She is all about craft, craft, craft," Alison says.

Earlier this year, Alison was awarded an internship at Cill Rialaig artists' retreat in Co Kerry. She says: "There is something very spiritual about the place. You are working in a little stone house cut into a cliffside, looking out on to the sea, dark skies. I think it did inspire me to create a very simple, pared-back collection."

Natural fabrics -- pure wool, mohair, silk crepe, sheepskin -- and garments made in Ireland are a signature of Eme Vandal.

The only motif, a hand-crocheted cross, Alison attributes to St Bridget, and to Brigit, the pagan goddess of craftsmanship and poetry.

For those who admire the Antwerp Six, or remember the sublime artistic aesthetic and near monastic beauty of Mary Gregory's work, Eme Vandal is like a next incarnation for Ireland's sexier, modern women.

Sunday Independent

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