Wednesday 22 November 2017

Rising above - fashion designer Alison Conneely

Patriot Red: blood-stained rubble and rebel dust. Fabrics: oat Irish linen; blood-orange velvet
Patriot Red: blood-stained rubble and rebel dust. Fabrics: oat Irish linen; blood-orange velvet

In late 2015, fashion designer Alison Conneely was chosen for a commission by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland, to create a collection of work on the theme of collective identity, marking the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

"I guess the umbrella would have been the 1916 Centenary Programme," says Alison of the unifying theme of the collection, titled, The Shuttle Hive: A Century of Rising Threads. "However, I cast a wide net, and looked at the Rising through the modernist movement. And not necessarily the Rising in general, but the role of women leading up to the Rising and beyond, as well as looking at the current state of movements; the Repeal movement, etc," she says.

The result is an 18-piece clothing collection currently on exhibition in The National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History, in Collins Barracks. The pieces are also available to buy on a made-to-order basis.

The project was a collaborative undertaking. Alison, who was originally a student of sociology before studying fashion at Central Saint Martins, worked on this project with anthropologist Steve Coleman; anthropologist and historian Caoilfhionn Ni Bheachain; and leather specialist Roisin Gartland, as well as weavers, textile artists and silversmiths.

This is not a simple reworking of military outfits of the time. "It felt very important, when looking at something as specific as the Rising, to transcend that," explains Alison, "and to look at it from a modernist perspective, as opposed to rehashing costume uniform. Obviously, they were important in terms of research, but for me, as a designer, it had to be something very contemporary. To pay homage to the past, but very much in a modernist context. I probably would design like that, anyway. My clothing is quite modern, and it's a very wearable collection."

Alison, who worked as a stylist before beginning to produce collections of her own, works project by project, rather than seasonally. Next up is a collection of T-shirts, and she is currently working on The Faul bag, inspired by her home place of Connemara, for autumn/winter 2017. Connemara, she says, is the starting point for all her work.

The exhibition in the National Museum consists of six themed panels, each one including three garments, inspired by the roles played by women during the project of independence, as rebels, spies, messengers, poets, revolutionary directors, and nurses.

She used a range of fabrics, including mohair; kidskin; linen; crepe de Chine; Donegal tweed; velvets, and wool. After all the pomp and circumstance of much of last year's centenary celebrations, this is a subtle, thoughtful creation, inspired, as Alison puts it, by, "women who were orchestrating behind the scenes; and those women's personal social-support networks."

Photography by Liam Murphy

Styling by Alison Conneely

Words by  Liadan Hynes

Fashion edited by  Constance Harris

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

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