Joanne Hynes: I like that idea of taking something ordinary and making it extraordinary
Joanne Hynes' latest collection at Dunnes Stores hums with a unique personal vision, humour and a nod to legendary couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, writes our fashion editor
Designer Joanne Hynes is a fashion maverick we are blessed to have on the Irish retail scene. She isn't afraid to innovate, explore, look forward and go back to her roots and her second of two AW18 drops into Dunnes Stores arrives on to rails this week with 38 clothing pieces and 37 accessorising options.
"It's called a drop but I see these pieces as mini collections in their own right, each with a particular story. It's like I'm doing four collections a year and when it sells out, we don't replenish, it's straight on to the next collection. We have a new collection in February and again in March with multiple mini stories that we are already excited about getting out there," Joanne explains.
The cautionary word of advice that bestsellers won't be repeated will be picked up by her hardcore fans who, by now - five seasons into Joanne Hynes at Dunnes Stores - know the pieces that thrill, from the embellished collars and earrings to the humorous hats. This season, a pull-down beanie hat with crystal beaded face profile and all-seeing eye has that moreish quality for die-hard JH fans.
A preview of her rail signals a number of looks bound to attract attention, like a crystal-encrusted black leather pencil skirt, and a luxe coat version in a pose (above) that couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, one of Joanne's favourites, might have styled if the Italian fashion designer was alive today. The new collection also includes a striking faux pony hair coat (above right) with exaggerated collar covered in crystals and brooches and another winning look is a blue tinsel thread dress with flared, fluorescent neon green hemline (above far right).
Colour is hugely important to Joanne who spent a lot of time working on the hues in this dress, from the electric blue body to the neon green and the "engineered" shape. It shouts versatility because of how easily it morphs from casual to being glammed up with heels. Being a knitter myself with a penchant for - and not necessarily a skill at - a good raised diamond cable, I love how Joanne has beautifully adorned and embellished her cardigan with zari threads, used in Indian wedding dresses, and crystal stones. It is a standout winner with its funnel neck and glam buttons.
However, it was the weight of the cardigan that really appealed to me. I get apprehensive when I hear the word 'Aran' because I'm thinking scratchy wool and rigid shape, but thankfully, this glamazon has neither.
Joanne tells me the backstory of how "the black cardigan is an exact copy of a jumper I showed at London Fashion Week in 2011. I've been interested in Irish knitwear for years and I remember back in 2004, I did Aran cardigans and coats and there was so much interest in them at Paris Fashion Week. "When researching the range we often go through the archive and there are certain pieces that always pop up and feel like this could be the moment to play with that idea again, this season it's the Aran."
Joanne adds: "I like the idea of taking something kind of ordinary and then making it extraordinary, and that's the idea of the knit, taking ordinary Aran and making it new and exciting. Often I'm looking at wardrobe staples and thinking how can I make it work, so there's a great black pencil skirt that I want to wear with trainers and heels but the difference here is that it has massive crystals on it."
Moving to a more affordable price point on the high street now, Joanne says: "I'd like to think that women who might not have bought me before are buying my collection now and that thrills me. That idea of new customers, new faces, reaching someone who might have been harder to reach because they might have felt left out. Sometimes you might just need a pick me up or you just want to feel different about yourself."
Talking me through the various pieces on her rail at Dunnes HQ, Joanne says "a lot of the pieces are quite classic shapes and some of them have taken a few seasons to develop, at Dunnes Stores I'm dealing with women that I would never have reached before, which is great." Her customer is drawn right across the generations, from young mums to older women who like her touch of rebel, and then there are the teenagers who come in and start off buying the earrings or a candle. Joanne isn't a designer who cherry picks 'her girl' or 'her woman'. "Over the years, I tortured myself about it and now with this collection, I don't have any of that. I have a huge archive of work that I've been able to look back at and I've always been interested in lots of unconventional women so for me, there's lots of different women in the collection. I'm not just saying 'my girl or 'my woman' likes A-line or likes straight down, my girl and my woman likes lots of things. She likes fashion. She likes what clothes can do for her character. She is looking for new ways to express herself all the time and that's the challenge, and I like it.
"Not everyone feels comfortable experimenting with their wardrobe but I think women should because there are no wrongs or rights."
When Joanne sits down to design something, she aims for wardrobe longetivity. "I want my black leather skirt this season to be your black leather skirt for life. I know when I shop, I want to find things that I will wear to death, like my Prada boots that I've had for 15 years," she says.
Joanne didn't exactly lick her fashion interest off the stones in Tuam, where she grew up. Her mother, Josephine, had a boutique, Temptations in Claremorris, Co Mayo and Joanne grew up with a mum and aunts blessed with "great taste and they were all very stylish".
"When I was younger and living in the west of Ireland, I used to get the bus to Dublin. I'd go to Temple Bar and buy jeans and customise them. I used to buy velvet jackets and sell them to friends in school, not because I was trying to make money but because I would wear them and they would want them, and I found that conversation exciting, it was a form of expression. When I was younger, I had no idea there was a fashion industry or that I could be a "fashion designer." But studying she did, first at Limerick School of Art and Design and later at St Martins in London. "I actually went to university to study painting and then stumbled into fashion. It kind of combines lots of collected interests I have and I get to express them through clothes."