Meet the Irish designers adding colour to our lives... and a little light into our lockdown

Get to know three innovative Irish labels that are playing with colour and pattern to produce spectacular results

Fiona McIntyre, founder of All Things Fiona-Lily

Bairbre Power

It’s been exciting to watch Irish designer Katie Ann McGuigan wow at London Fashion Week repeatedly every season because of her highly original eye for digital graphic prints.

Katie Ann grew up with colour, spending every day after school and her weekends at her parents’ Orior furniture and interiors business in Newry, surrounded by the most incredible fabrics and a sea of contrasting colours and textures.

I honestly feel this exposure during her childhood gave her an advantage over her peers, and last year she pivoted into interiors with an exciting rug collaboration with her brother, Ciaran, who works in New York.

Katie Ann’s SS21 collection features what she describes as a “diluted mint” in her generous-sized printed silk scarf (€235), with its cream and black border over her ‘Sally’ — a double-breasted silk crepe de chine blazer (€545) in “seafoam mint” — and matching ‘Tina’ double-lined, straight and wide-legged trousers (€495), all pictured below.

Katie Ann says her aim is to keep things local. With the supply of digitally printed fabric slowed down because of reduced output in lockdown, she has just decided to drop out of the London Fashion Week digital schedule this month but will launch her collection at the end of February. And what’s in there?

I can reveal that Katie Ann has come up with some fab new lifestyle products; she is using Donegal Wool, and she will definitely be going into more homewares.

She also has her made-to-order ‘Carrie’ leather trench, which comes in at €2,368, and shoe fiends can contact Katie Ann via her website to order her mule shoes with vinyl block heels (€699), which come in six colours.

Scarf, €235; blazer, €545; trousers, €495, by Katie Ann McGuigan. Photograph: Catharina Pavitschitz

Everyday affirmations Lockdown has sparked some fascinating fashion businesses for us to explore and introduce into our lives and that’s certainly the case with All Things Fiona-Lily.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer drive and determination of Fiona McIntyre (main picture, above), the powerhouse behind this ethical fashion brand and website, which also has its own self-care club, currently for members who come from Ireland, Europe and the United States.

Fiona moved to Co Donegal in 2014 with her son, Max, to open a zero-waste coffee shop. All Things Fiona-Lily (ATFL) was initially a sideline, but when the coffee shop had to close down due to Covid-19 restrictions, the fashion line became her full-time job. Fiona wasn’t without experience, having worked in visual merchandising in Dublin for over a decade.

Fiona sources end-of-line fabric from different warehouses and saves unused clothing from heading to landfill. But the ATFL business model Fiona has built up is so much more than just rescuing fabric from landfill.

She transforms the stock into colourful sweatshirts in bright and bold colours with positive quotes emblazoned across the front, including the affirmation “Stay Hopeful” — but over the last year, Fiona has built up a community through her website, and posts about helping to break the stigma around mental health.

It’s an issue Fiona knows about only too well, having suffered her own personal battles with anxiety and depression.

When the single mum started to research therapies for herself and her son, she came across CBT and colour therapy — how colour can positively affect our mood levels.

“Colour can greatly influence human emotion and behaviour, and it has become such a huge part of my life, and my son Max’s life, and I wanted to use this within my designs and the colour palette of the brand,” says Fiona.

The first quotes she used were the daily affirmations that herself and Max would say in the mirror every day, like “Be Kind”, “Stay Hopeful” and “You Make a Difference”.

The brand name is a nod to Fiona’s maternal grandmother, Lily, from Drimnagh in Dublin, who was a dressmaker in the 1940s and 1950s. Lily is also Fiona’s middle name.

The current range includes slogan crewnecks in a variety of colours (€40), “Self Love Club” tees (€18), “Be Kind” socks (€5), a creative kindness journal (€12), positive prints and ATFL pendants (€5), “Do-You” lists (€10) and Fiona’s hand-poured crystal candles (€16), which are coming back into stock soon.

A new range of reworked crewnecks is made from faulty batch stock and, instead of repairing the sleeves, Fiona replaces them with other ones in different colours, and prints on her favourite slogans.

This range, called To:Me, will launch on Valentine’s Day.

Embroidered floral mask, €30, by Susannagh Grogan

Florals for the face Susannagh Grogan has brought great artistry to her gorgeous silk scarves with flowers that she paints at her Killiney studio in a variety of mesmerising colours. It was only a matter of time before she transferred this love of botanicals to face masks.

Susannagh has a range of cotton masks with embroidered flowers and tiny bead details (above) in shades of lilac, navy, yellow and green. They sell for €30, and this month sees the arrival of new colourways in her popular bee mask.

I’m sure this genre of mask will become increasingly desirable, especially given the publicity around Dr Jill Biden’s inaugural mask and matching evening outfit, featuring delicate needlework by Dubliner Laura Weber of the New York Embroidery Studio.