Friday 23 February 2018

Fun with friends, family and fashion

In an effort to raise funds for Saint Joseph's Care Centre for dementia sufferers, where her dad is so well looked after, Deborah Veale, with the help of good friends, brought together some of the brightest and the best of Irish fashion

An Umit Kutluk creation at the Lexus Fashion Collective at Trinity College. Photo: Kieran Harnett.
An Umit Kutluk creation at the Lexus Fashion Collective at Trinity College. Photo: Kieran Harnett.
Deborah Veale and Philip Treacy
Mariad and Domino Whisker. Photo: Kieran Harnett.
Ireland's Eye Knitwear.
Simone Rocha.
Deborah Veale.
Sharon Hoey
Philip Treacy
Designer Roisin Linnane, jewellery by Melissa Curry.
Helen Steele.
Aideen Bodkin.
Liadan Hynes

Liadan Hynes

Deborah Veale was visiting her dad Ken at Saint Joseph's in Shankill when she was, as she puts it, "nobbled by the force that is Siobhan Grant". Fundraiser for Saint Joseph's, Siobhan explained that she was hoping Deborah might help her in her efforts on behalf of the centre, which is Ireland's only care centre solely dedicated to people suffering from dementia. Using the Butterfly Approach, which aims to create an environment that is closer to a home than a hospital, it aims to become Ireland's first Dementia Village.

"I thought she meant getting a few designers to give clothes to something," Deborah says. It's typical of Deborah's modesty that she wouldn't see herself as a potential linchpin for a huge fundraising event. In fact, Deborah has long been one of Ireland's top designers, creating timeless clothes that work for women of all ages. Her designs have been worn by former President Mary McAleese, who commissioned outfits to wear during Queen Elizabeth's visit. "That gave me such confidence, because it embraced me at a level that I might have thought I was at, but didn't really know I was." Deborah is in the process of re-emerging after a self-imposed exile from design. Shortly after the Queen's visit, her beloved younger sister Alacoque developed terminal cancer, and she temporarily gave up designing. It was only last autumn that she relaunched, after three years of no collections. As sometimes happens after life-changing events, one re-evaluates, and Deborah says she has returned to work with a whole new approach.

"I'm not necessarily listening anymore to the market telling me what they want - say there's a demand there for occasion wear, and then you feel you have to deliver that. Now I only make very small limited collections. It's truer to what I enjoy, what I look at; everybody from my daughter, a young working woman, to my mom, who is an amazing 75 years old, to Mari O'Leary, who was wearing one of the jackets at the show. I'd rather make ten really nice pieces, than 300."

This creative freedom is largely possible due to her thriving second business, DV Professional, which designs corporate uniforms, with clients including the Merrion Hotel, Ballyfin House, and the Marker Hotel. Her husband, Charlie Hanrahan, runs this side of the business.

"It gives me the freedom to make clothes that I want myself." Following her conversation with Siobhan, the inaugural Lexus Irish Fashion Collective show came together astonishingly quickly. In Trinity for a meeting about the corporate uniforms side of the business, the location was sorted. Lexus came on board as the sponsors. Lorraine Keane, a long-time friend and fan of Deborah's clothes, agreed to host the event. Mari O'Leary took on the PR, and got in contact with Philip Treacy, who counts the iconic beauty as a muse. He agreed to headline. Deborah and Philip studied fashion in NCAD at the same time. "I was the year ahead of him, we always got on." Years ago, when Deborah was in college, Philip offered to make her a hat to finish off an outfit of hers that had been short-listed for an award. Eager, they arrived early at the venue, and stored the outfit in the cloakroom. "I went back to get it and the bloody hat had been stolen. And they left the suit, which is worse," she bursts out laughing. "I was so disgusted. I think I got third, I was convinced if I'd had the hat I would have won."

This show, styled by Catherine Condell, featured 12 Irish designers. As well as Treacy, whose pieces were worn with Alexander McQueen, there was Orla Kiely, who continues to benefit from her association with Keira Knightley's stylist Leith Clark, creating clothes that are less fey, but still with a nod to the 1960s. Aideen Bodkin showed classic dresses. Helen Steele's clothes would work equally well hung as artwork on the wall. Deborah's own contribution was a black and white collection of simple tailored pieces. Mariad Whisker showed a beautiful collection that had a minimalist, 1990s feel to it. Her daughter Domino, who DJ-ed on the night, also proved a perfect model for the line, wearing a pair of bold striped trousers. Roisin Linnane, with jewellery by Melissa Curry, provided the bold colour of the night. Mary Donoghue, for Ireland's Eye Knitwear, showed clever knee and full-length gowns in modern shapes using traditional fabrics. Umit Kutluk's collection was gentle power-dressing. Sharon Hoey's bridal wear was a subtle collection of gowns many of which could easily double as black tie dresses. Simone Rocha, who is a friend of Deborah's daughter Sorcha , herself a buyer for Penneys, finished the night with a collection exclusively available at Havana boutique in Donnybrook. While there was the usual compliment of quirky dresses, there was also a number of styles suitable to a more mature wardobe.

The evening was a huge success, and Deborah is already planning next year's event."What they're trying to do with the dementia village is make life easier for everybody," explains Deborah. "You realise that as a family you can't cope anymore. It's kind of shocking really, when the penny drops. You realise, coming out of St Joseph's, thank God for these people, because they are doing something that as a family we can't do anymore.

"And I love going in there and I love going in to see him, and I'm very proud of the person that he is, even now. I love the care and the attention to detail that they give him. They're amazing people."

Deborah Veale is available from and currently from Arnotts. To assist in Saint Joseph's efforts, tel: (01) 282 3000

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