Our fashion editor rounds up the latest style news and fashion trends
The small town of Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan became a world centre of excellence for its intricate, handcrafted lace. In a beautiful, modern tribute, Co Mayo textile designer Lou Brennan has taken inspiration from this delicate art form and developed her own hand-painted print of lace and traditional paisley shawls in a modern interpretation that is truly wearable art.
For me, Brennan is one of the best-kept secrets on the Irish scarf scene, and she moves effortlessly across mixed mediums of silk, modal and 100pc luxury merino wool.
Brennan was the first MA student in fashion and textiles at NCAD and went on to be the textile manager for John Rocha and to work in New York and Lyon.
Her new-season collection is called ‘Crochet Collage’. Brennan spent hours working on hand drawings to create a special print at her lakeside studio near Foxford in Co Mayo. It’s painstaking, highly detailed work, and Brennan then painted the drawings of lace and paisley medallions with gouache.
I met up with Brennan at Showcase, the Irish creative expo, where she told me that, in her work, she finds inspiration in the work of modern-day Irish artists, including Aosdána member Eamon Colman.
Brennan’s ‘Riamh’ scarf (the Irish word for ‘ever’) is part of the Crochet Collage collection and comes in a luxury blend of 15pc silk/85pc modal. Measuring a generous 140x180cm, which allows it to drape beautifully, it is available in four colourways.
Brennan has been busy and, this season, she has introduced a new blend of 30pc silk/70pc wool in the ‘Viola’ scarf (€225). Also new, the ‘Indigo’ luxury silk twill scarf (€125) was inspired by the way Japanese designers get a big mop brush and dip it in the ink and create free-flowing brush strokes.
Brennan hand-draws and paints motifs from her Carrickmacross wedding veil, and she acknowledges how this Irish lace has become synonymous with Ireland’s textile heritage. “The Irish lace story is imbued with an emotion, history and legacy that inspires others to this day,” she says.
If you are into knitting, check out her classic Fair Isle knit scarves in 100pc luxury merino wool, such as the ‘Lough Conn’ (€225), with its rich tapestry of stitches. Did you know the zigzag stitch symbolises marriage, love and its ups and downs? loubrennan.com
Fair play to Jenny Johnston, founder of The Suss Edit clothing brand, who is determined to create a fully circular business with an interesting ‘wear and hand back’ element.
I love her slouchy, loose-fit, ‘borrowed from the boys’ grey classic knit jumper. Made from 100pc organic cotton, when you’re done with it, Johnston says she will make you another one.
“When you decide you have had enough of it, we ask for you to give it back to us and we offer a discount on a future purchase and then we purpose [the old item] into something new,” she explains.
Fighting against the overproduction that comes with fast fashion, Johnston says, when she started her business online in August 2021, “I decided from the very beginning to design with deconstruction in mind.
“What we really try and do is that, in all of our creations, everything is made from 100pc of one material, and what that means is that, at the end of the product’s life cycle, we can deconstruct it back into the raw material and then repurpose it and give it a second life.”
Johnston says, “Although our clothes are designed to last, if you decide you’re finished with your product, you can return it to us and you’ll get 10pc off a future purchase, we’ll ensure the raw materials get another life, and we will also offset your shipment by planting a tree,” she explains.
“I quickly realised this dilemma that, if a garment has mixed materials, that it could not be deconstructed, and it was working with our manufacturers in Portugal... they suggested this was an option, and I love the idea of giving something a second life.”
Suss Edit pieces are now available in stores such as Curated by Design Centre in Kildare Village, which stocks its T-shirts with ruffle on the cap sleeve (€69). Johnston also has what she calls the ‘Perfect Tee’ (€49) in shades like mocha, black and white and available in eight sizes, from XS to XXXXL.
This season, she is introducing dresses in tiered, wrap and boho styles. Her business model works on a pre-order basis, in contrast to the standard fashion model of ‘make, sell, discount, destroy’, which she says is outdated and results in excess waste and a whole heap of unnecessary damage to the environment.
Johnston says, “Nowadays, fashion businesses overproduce day-in, day-out, and we want to be the difference.” thesussedit.com