New model army
Incredibly, it has been 18 years since audacious Irish designer Claire Garvey took the brave step of opening her own shop in Cow's Lane, in Temple Bar. Last March, she celebrated by buying the premises, and one of her truest fans, the legendary Nile Rodgers and his glamorous Chic singers, flew in and 'cut the tape'- such is his love and respect for her creativity.
Claire Garvey is an extraordinary talent. She is known and recognised worldwide, with Hollywood legends, prestigious opera companies and famous photographers commissioning, or hiring, her work.
When we first met, over 20 years ago, Claire was like any other designer newly out of college, trying to make a go of womenswear. It was a course in costume design in Russia that changed everything. There, Claire learnt that creation isn't limited to cloth. That potential is in everything to become something.
That precept - of adaptability and fluidity - coupled with her unbounded joy and satisfaction in her creativity, has been the basis of her life since, and key to her success.
"I think that is the key to longevity - to keep changing. Do more of what you want to do, and less of what you have to do. And keep pushing yourself. Rather than being bored, which I can't imagine, it must be the worst thing," she says.
On our pages today are six outfits out of 54 that she recently created specially for the fundraiser show, organised by TV presenter Alan McGarry-Love for children's orphanage Associacao Cultural Somos Criancas in Brazil.
You made 54 outfits for a charity show? I ask, stunned, as I'm aware that Claire does everything by hand, with a small, highly trusted crew.
"You know me, I like a challenge. And it was great to create for so many different varieties of people - sizes, different ethnic backgrounds, sex," the unflappable Claire responds. "Everyone did it for free - the models, the make-up, the hair, the photographer, Lillie's Bordello. To see the difference this fundraising makes in the children's' lives was very special."
Claire is well known for incredible women's creations. But currently she is very turned on by menswear.
"It was in designing for Nile Rodgers that I fell in love with menswear. I hated menswear in college. I detested it. And the models were all a similar type," Claire tells me. "Now I can't stop doing it. I love it so much. Nowadays, menswear is more creative, more free, more unisex. The models are better now, too; more interesting."
What I love about Claire Garvey's menswear on our pages today, is that for all the theatrics, flamboyance and colour, I have never seen men look so incredibly, ragingly masculine. "These are real men. They had to like what they wore. I created around their personal style," Claire explains. "And, luckily, they loved it."
That bastion of tradition, the Rose of Tralee, has invited Claire to close its fashion show, which I think is rather brilliant of them. Perhaps next year, they might dress the escorts and the Roses in her work...
That'd be something to see!
Photography by Ellen McDermott
Fashion edited by Constance Harris
Sunday Indo Life Magazine