Friday 18 January 2019

'I want to say something with my collections' - Irish designer Natalie B. Coleman on giving her clothes a message

Natalie B. Coleman
Natalie B. Coleman
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

When they coined the phrase, ‘How does she do it?, I think they may have been speaking about Natalie B. Coleman.

Not content with running her own eponymous fashion line, the Monaghan native has a a young daughter at home, lectures at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), studying for an M.Phil in gender studies at Trinity part-time – oh, and she’s eight months pregnant.

Coleman’s work ethic is as intimidating as it is impressive. When she tells me that she is flying to New York in May, one month after giving birth, I ask her where she finds the energy. “I look about 200 years old,” she laughs.

She returned to her studies part-time because she wanted to give her clothes a meaning, some purpose in the world of high street rip-offs, where individuality is becoming endangered. And meaning it has: her Autumn/Winnter collection’s theme is 'Guaranteed to Bleed'.

 “There’s a feminist slant to my collection theme. We worked with six generation weavers, Molloys in Donegal, there’s a nice silver metallic thread through working with very classic heritage fabrics. It’s our own take on modernity.

We used only 100pc Irish linen and we do everything with quilting techniques. Everything is made in Ireland up in our studio in a big old Georgina building in O’Connell St – in the attic,” she explains of her craft.

“It’s a modern Irishness I try to have in my work. That’s why I went back to do the– it was to have a stronger context behind my own work as well. There’s so much saturation in the fashion market at the moment, it’s completely changed…the high street is hug, so I wanted to say something with my collections.”

Next up, Natalie is preparing for the arrival of her second child in early April and will then be flying to New York in May for her place in startlab New York, a technology incubator funded by Bank of Ireland and supported by Wearing Irish, which chose 10 Irish designers out of 172 applicants to meet with influential buyers, editors and designers stateside.

When I comment that she doesn't have much time for maternity leave, she says, “Well I have a month. I’m only going for a few days.”

“There’s such a rich history, particularly in fabrics and textiles in Ireland, not much manufacturing. It’s not to compete with other countries, we’re doing our own thing,” she explained of the upcoming showcase."

Also on her plate is her ongoing brand ambassadorship with Microsoft, which was a meeting of the minds - Microsoft wanted her creative je ne sais quoi and she is now technologically fluent.

“I still do a lot by hand so I think my relationship with Microsoft was interesting because I wouldn’t have been a natural techy person - I would have been very old school, doing everything by hand. I still do a lot of my work by hand, but for me, it was a revelation really. I had to learn to use technology,” she says.

“I’ve been working with them for a few years – I use their Surface laptop a lot, I travel a good bit and I’m away from the studio a lot so it’s like a mobile sketch pad for me.”

So what’s next for one of the busiest women in Irish fashion? “I’m really enjoying where I’m at the moment. I’m enjoying my role in NCAD, it’s great working there, keeping the business going and growing, we’re really particular about what stores we work with, it’s nice to keep it small because it’s all I can manage. I’ll keep it in Ireland,” she says.

“We do the casual line produced in Portugal, that’s more the sweatshirts and t-shirts. Everything else, the special pieces, we make here.”

Microsoft recently launched their €134m campus in Dublin to promote modern workplace wellbeing.

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