Golden-age models still prove to be super
A charity show on a cold night brought back the heyday of our catwalk queens, writes Constance Harris
Last Wednesday week, when the snowstorm was at its worst and anyone with sense stayed at home, a brave, mad few made the tough journey into Dublin city centre to honour a commitment to attend a fashion show to raise funds for Barnardo's.
But this was no ordinary fashion show. The brainchild of James English, of Couleur Productions, this was a show which included some of our current top models and a first reunion of Ireland's supermodels from the Eighties and Nineties -- a time when being a model meant great bone structure, excellent posture, fabulous legs and a walk in high heels that said: "I am the pinnacle of what it is to be a gorgeous goddess of a woman."
This was one show I did not want to miss and I wish to thank again the staff of Iarnrod Eireann and the Dart for truly embodying the meaning of service. They kept the city moving when everyone else seemed to have abandoned us. I salute ye.
I was dressed like I'd come from an Antarctic expedition and when Deirdre Kelly, the Angels Quest charity impresario, who had come from her own snow-affected fundraising event, saw me arrive, she commented laughingly: "Everyone here must love fashion very much -- or models."
Being the sharp woman she is, she nailed it in a sentence. The crappy journey on this crappy night was a labour of love to see these girls in action again.
I started out my career in fashion as a teenager dressing models for the Late Late Show Fashion Awards in the Eighties. Sheila Eustace was a star model then. She had incredible bone structure, flashing eyes and a distinctive walk on the ramp that was the essence of Lady and Power.
Sheila has been living in Spain for many years, so it was incredibly special to see her on the Barnardo's ramp this blizzardy night. Nothing seemed to have changed. The flashing eyes, the amazing face, body and walk were all there.
However, lightheartedness was the new addition in La Eustace. She was relaxed, funny and friendly. She happily told me she works only part-time.
"Well, as Maureen Dolan [another model and friend] told me -- no one ever died wishing they'd worked a few hours more," she said.
Sylvia Myers is another name that will be remembered affectionately by women (and men) in their 40s. A hugely popular model, her career spanned a long period. I think she looks better now than she did 20 years ago. She is the mother of young, twin daughters and she, too, was relaxed and thrilled to be reunited with her colleagues.
Motherhood was a significant development in most of our supermodels' lives. Lisa Cummins, Alison Canavan and Ruth Griffin all had babies within the past 12 months, and they looked incredible for it. Corina Grant and Marie Staunton have toddlers.
Poor Sandra Curley got snowed in in Drogheda. Jill Diffley and Nicole Lynch also got stranded. Thankfully, beauties Siobhan Mahon, Una Gibney, Sarah McGovern and Lynn Mpagi succeeded in getting to the event.
Watching Lisa work the ramp, using her body and eyeline to make the most of some of the striking evening-wear she was modelling, reminded me about how much modelling has changed in the past 15 years.
Lisa modelled the way the supermodels -- Helena, Linda, Claudia -- would have done it in their Versace mega-heyday. But on their heels came in the anti-glamour movement with its new dictate: modelling was no longer to be about beauty and exuberant joy, but pouting and seeming unhappiness. It has gone on too long, I say.
I wished Ireland's new generation of models had been at this show to learn how it can be done. Richard Lewis, whose collection looked amazing, has always held with models looking womanly, happy and classy. We stood together watching the girls do their stuff, delighting in them.
Organiser James said: "It was something myself and my wife Emma spoke about for a long time -- getting Ireland's truly great models back together. For me, they were the irreplaceable girls. They were the girls you looked up to. The first show I produced was 19 years ago and they were the first show girls I worked with, so, for me, to get them back was fantastic."
When Dame Street make-up school Make-upFabLicious approached James about doing a graduation show in aid of Barnardo's, he thought this was the perfect opportunity, knowing the models would want to support young talent as well as a children's charity.
As it turns out, everyone involved donated their time or money to the cause, including amazing violinist Tara Novak and the Cuban Salsa dancers who performed.
"We always try to add something different to make the show memorable, to give everyone a treat," Emma English told me.
The fashion on the catwalk was testimony to the Irish fashion industry's fighting spirit. It included clothes from boutiques such as Fran & Jane, Kabuki in Carrick-on-Shannon, Beverly Hills in Galway and Belfast, Olivia Danielle in Athlone, Dublin stores Couture Boutique (and online), Lara's, Chica, Diffusion and The Design Centre, jewellery by Dyrberg/ Kern and shoes supplied by Fitzpatrick's.
Irish designers Synan O'Mahony, Claire O'Connor, Patrick Casey's new bridal-wear range and Michael Leong's new head-pieces collection showed that Irish creativity is alive and kicking.
Plans for another supermodels show are in the pipeline for spring. Don't miss it -- even if this time a tornado hits.
On Wednesday there will be an evening of ethical designer fashion and accessories Christmas sale in the garden of Unicorn, in Waverly, Church Road, Greystone. There will be mulled wine, mince pies and special discounts, with 10 per cent of all sales going to Hope and Bray Lakers
Photography: Tony Gavin
Styling: Amanda Kevlin
Make-up: Make-upFabLicious Academy, www.makeupfablicious.com Hair: MOHH
Maeve O’Healy-Harte Academy Show
Production: James English and Couleur
Lighting and sound: Crystal Sound and Light AV
All shoes by Fitzpatrick’s. Jewellery by Dyrberg/Kern
Shot on location in La Stampa, Dawson Street, D2