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Hunger for authenticity inspires overseas buyers

Ireland is back in fashion as international buyers fall in love with our knitwear, tweed, linen and lace.

In a marketplace full of luxury designer labels the humble hand-knitter has an increasingly important place in the retail 'food chain'.

"The Chinese are driving this need for authenticity," said Brian McGee, head of market development with the Craft Council of Ireland.

Irish knitwear designer Edmund McNulty -- whose customer base stretches all the way to Japan -- has experienced the thirst for authentic knitwear.

"Buyers are waking up to the beauty of Irish knitwear all over again but they want to discover a New Ireland," said Mr McNulty at the opening day of Showcase, the creative expo at the RDS convention centre in Dublin.

After bad 'recession' press in recent years, foreign buyers are looking to discover the creativity that springs from that.

"Buyers are looking for designers who are re-interpreting what Old Ireland used to be," said Mr McNulty.

A core group of 200 influential buyers last night attended a fashion show at Showcase featuring 250 pieces from 60 exhibitors and eight designers.

There were couture dresses from Peter O'Brien twinned with sequinned tweed from McNutts.

John Rocha showed cocoon-shaped tweed from his Autumn/Winter 2011 collection while designer Joanne Hynes showcased her new colourful leathers and Tipperary-born knitwear designer Tim Ryan showed stunning fringed 'art deco' dresses.

Many of the best pieces were steeped in tradition with a heritage twist.

Former civil servant Cyril Cullen -- who started knitting 50 years ago following a bet -- showed a Jacob Collection cardigan.

Stylist Catherine Condell charmed the audience, layering old on new, vintage with contemporary and knits with sheer chiffons.

The show eulogised the knotty tactile beauty of Irish knitwear.

One of the show-stopping outfits was an asymmetric, gold lurex dress twinned with a cable-knit throw from Carraig Donn, a company which started out on the Aran Islands and now has a flourishing retail and online business.

Irish Independent