Friday 15 December 2017

Now spring gets a Luke in

With weather like ours we need daywear that make us feel good, says Constance Harris and these fit the bill

Constance Harris

Every designer and retailer will tell you that the Irish fashion market in spring/ summer is driven by social occasions. We will spend money on dressing up for a wedding or birthday 10 times quicker than on a summer suit for work or an ensemble for the weekend.

The unreliability of the Irish summer plays a big part in our reticence to outlay serious money on a season that, weather wise, may or may not happen.

So we opt instead for a chain-store ensemble -- less exclusive, less original, less stylish and less expensive so we don't feel we have lost too much money if we never get around to wearing it. Of course, we may never get around to wearing it because we know in our hearts we didn't buy it with any kind of joy and, therefore, we come to resent it after a while for its representing penny-pinching feelings.

All this goes to explain why our boutiques tend to be not as strong or diverse for daywear in this season. For our designers, too, it is frustrating, as they would love to flex their design muscles creating different types of clothes.

New Irish label Luke Lovely may just be the one doing just that.

"Luke Lovely is aimed at the 30-plus market. It is about easy pieces, with colour, serving a busy lifestyle," Fiona Heaney designer of Luke Lovely and occasion-wear label Fee G told me. "It came about because we felt quite pigeon-holed and I wanted to move us into something different. The collection is tight. It is clean -- the colours, the styling. It is pared back in a good way."

Luke Lovely is a softly sophisticated, smart casual range of clothes that show a keen awareness of modern women's lives. The range is a nice blend of the kind of pieces you would find in BT2, Ted Baker, Reiss, with maybe a bit of Urban Outfitters thrown in.

It is fashion aware with on-trend features such as cuff trousers, city shorts, slouchy-looking, softly tailored jackets with gathered sleeves, tunic tops, baggy tees, short and maxi dresses.

But comfort is at the heart of it; garments are softly shaped and loose. Colour abounds, but so do hard-working neutrals such as stone, grey and black.

So far the collection is largely available in the Kilkenny stores nationwide and some long-standing Fee G stockists who trust Fiona and her husband and business partner, Don Gormley's, know-how.

Despite all the doom and gloom of 2008/9, Fiona and Don did not allow the pervasive fear to affect them. They did not contract their business, or dumb down their product, or compromise on quality in order to be seen to lower price.

In fact, they went in the opposite direction and decided to increase their business by searching for new markets for their vibrant and colourful occasion-wear label Fee G. And they did well.

Luke Lovely is a move to build further on the foundations they are creating abroad. But I am hoping the range will capture the imagination of us here at home, too.

To my mind, fashion right now is about getting back to functional, working wardrobes. It is about co-ordination. It is about separates but looking smart in them. Our clothes have to work hard. But we want them to bring joy into our work lives, too. So there should be respite and ease built in.

There should be some softness, 'cos we need it in our lives and definitely some lovely girly, details and, of course, some pink

"I feel we all need easy dressing," Fiona explained. "Luke Lovely is about easy pieces. Doing the great top, the comfortable cardigan, trousers that fit right. A dress that you can wear during the day, maybe you'd wear it with your jeans or opaque tights, but it can then be dressed for night, too. It is about getting more value from your clothes. While having your fun."

Luke Lovely is available in sizes 0 to 4 (which corresponds to XS to XL) because as Don told me: "It gets people away from the whole negative feeling around sizes and is a growing trend abroad." Luke Lovely prices are competitive with, if not under, international casual-wear brands. Richly embellished, motif T-shirts start at just €59, trousers from €94, dresses from €111 and jackets at €119.

There are cute, draped cardis with contrast fabric backs, several contemporary-styled dresses such as the one-sleeved number pictured here and the pretty maxi dress. I also really like the slouch tees with their birdcage and butterfly motifs.

"We are trying to appeal to a new customer," Fiona told me. "We have always listened to what our customers have told us. Luke Lovely is created with Irish women in mind. It is for her lifestyle, her needs."

Given that I can easily see myself and many discerning women I know who are a lot younger than me wearing many Luke Lovely pieces as we lead our frenetic lives, I think Fiona and Don's goals are spot on.

Created to be easy, hard-working, flexible and attractive, Luke Lovely is a welcome addition to Irish clothes rails.

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