DON'T underestimate the pulling power of the Irish geansai.
Just ask the Japanese fashion buyers who are descending on Dublin this month because they can't get enough of Irish knitwear. It might be the 21st Century, but today, 'handcrafted' carries a whole new fashion currency and 'heritage' is the buzzword.
Traditional knitting stitches like honeycomb, moss, lobster claw and tree of life have been given a contemporary twist by young designers.
Yesterday, Heather Finn, originally from Oranmore, Co Galway, and Edel McBride, from Convoy, Co Donegal, offered a preview of their new designs being unveiled at Showcase, the four-day Irish craft fair opening at Dublin's RDS in two weeks' time.
Pre-show buyer registration is up by 70pc on 2011 and more than €20m in orders are expected to be placed by more than 5,000 buyers across the four days, according to Brian McGee, head of market development at the Crafts Council of Ireland.
This year, there will be a special spotlight on the best of Irish fashion and a major runway show is being held on Sunday, January 22, produced by Sonia Reynolds.
It will be attended by 200 international buyers, many of whom are coming to Ireland in advance of the fashion weeks in New York and London in early February, so the potential to bag lucrative orders and make contacts is not lost on the young designers.
The show will feature both menswear and womenswear and promises to be among the biggest fashion presentations in the country this year.
Among those taking part will be Longford milliner Wendy Louise Knight, who has a particularly strong line in colourful, retro-feel, felt hats.
The work of Eilis Boyle will also be showcased and yesterday her metallic lace dress with raw 'eyelash' edging and grosgrain ribbons was one of the star pieces at the press call at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin, along with a Jimmy Hourihan's tweed coat.
Up to 40 Japanese buyers have already expressed an interest in attending the showcase and that is a particularly rich vein for 'heritage' designers like Yvonne Crotty from Waterford, who works under the label Bonzie.
Her contemporary use of layered lace and tweed has caught the eye of high-street experts like Karen Millen and Ian Galvin.
"Irish knitwear is like Irish food, we are known internationally for it and customers care where it comes from," said Mr McGee. "As customers become more sophisticated, handwoven and handknitted in Ireland means a lot, and that's to our benefit," he said.