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A run on tweed: meet the Irish designers lining out for Tokyo Fashion Week

A team of Irish designers will line out for Tokyo Fashion Week and take part in a unique two-wheeled tweed event, writes Bairbre Power

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The Tokyo Tweed Run

The Tokyo Tweed Run

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'Alexa' tweed coat with St Brigid's Cross design, €875, from Magee 1866, available at its store on South Anne Street, Dublin, and at Arnotts, Henry Street

'Alexa' tweed coat with St Brigid's Cross design, €875, from Magee 1866, available at its store on South Anne Street, Dublin, and at Arnotts, Henry Street

Hanna Hats 'vintage' tweed cap and  Donegal 'Touring Cap', both €50 each from  hannahats.com, Avoca, Weavers of Ireland, Kilkenny Design, Kilkenny

Hanna Hats 'vintage' tweed cap and Donegal 'Touring Cap', both €50 each from hannahats.com, Avoca, Weavers of Ireland, Kilkenny Design, Kilkenny

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The Tokyo Tweed Run

World Cup fever has gripped the Japanese capital but come next month, the sporting vibe will have a rival - and that's fashion.

Tokyo Fashion Week SS20 starts on October 1 so the streets will be packed with a mix of eye-wateringly innovative streetwear and rugby fans travelling to and from games.

And somewhere in the middle lies an interesting synergy which will accommodate the arrival of an Irish team of fashion designers in Japan.

The six-strong fashion designer squad is heading out with the Design & Craft Council of Ireland under the auspices of Enterprise Ireland's 'Ireland Japanese Trade and Investment Mission'. The designers' objective is to tell the story of contemporary Irish design, reflect on our heritage and, hopefully, pull in new business.

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'Alexa' tweed coat with St Brigid's Cross design, €875, from Magee 1866, available at its store on South Anne Street, Dublin, and at Arnotts, Henry Street

'Alexa' tweed coat with St Brigid's Cross design, €875, from Magee 1866, available at its store on South Anne Street, Dublin, and at Arnotts, Henry Street

'Alexa' tweed coat with St Brigid's Cross design, €875, from Magee 1866, available at its store on South Anne Street, Dublin, and at Arnotts, Henry Street

While in Tokyo, there will be a busy schedule, including a reception hosted by the Irish Ambassador to Japan, a seminar and showcase plus a rather unusual event which promises to give designers a unique opportunity to shine.

Cue the Tokyo Tweed Run. Not so much a run as a bicycle ride where participants pedal through the streets dressed head to toe in tweeds to "communicate the joy of cycling around the city". The dress code is tweed and participants are encouraged to "be dressed up to enjoy your bicycle more".

Over the years, cyclists have worn every hue and particularly love the patchwork variety, something we in Ireland might have regarded as rather 'Oirish' and aimed at the tourist market. But when you see it spliced and diced under the Japanese sun, layered up in myriad different looks, it gives an interesting insight into how other nations appreciate a traditional fabric so deeply rooted in our national psyche.

To date, the run has been dominated by tweeds from Scotland and England but this year, the Irish will be waving the flag big time and are officially linked to the event on October 20.

Jumping on board the Tweed Run in Tokyo next month will be Rosy Temple, marketing manager of Magee 1866.

Its men's and women's fashion lines marry heritage with contemporary fashion silhouettes and new to the market this season, its 'Alexa' coat features a very luxe point of difference where the weave factors in Magee's interpretation of the iconic St Brigid's Cross, something Irish families traditionally hung in their homes every February.

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Hanna Hats 'vintage' tweed cap and  Donegal 'Touring Cap', both €50 each from  hannahats.com, Avoca, Weavers of Ireland, Kilkenny Design, Kilkenny

Hanna Hats 'vintage' tweed cap and Donegal 'Touring Cap', both €50 each from hannahats.com, Avoca, Weavers of Ireland, Kilkenny Design, Kilkenny

Hanna Hats 'vintage' tweed cap and Donegal 'Touring Cap', both €50 each from hannahats.com, Avoca, Weavers of Ireland, Kilkenny Design, Kilkenny

Rosy markets the family-owned Magee company, which was founded in 1866 by John Magee and is now run by his grand-nephew, and her father, Lynn Temple.

Nestling on the banks of the River Eske in Donegal, they've been producing the finest tweeds for generations and found favour with Irish customers because of its durability in our inclement weather. However, Irish customers may not be aware of Magee's international links, supplying exclusively woven tweeds to top international couture houses.

Magee is already supplying fabric to designers in Japan but confidentiality agreements preclude Rosy from revealing who. It has developed tweeds for Ralph Lauren, the archetypal luxury 'Americana' brand and the relationship in fact goes back five decades. Last winter, Ralph Lauren produced a timeless wool herringbone sports coat in an exclusive Magee 1866 tweed with traditional baffle pockets, centre vent, throat latch and tartan undercollar, all based on Mr Lauren's own favourite tweed coat, which he has been wearing since 1971.

Americana designer connections aside, the Japanese are very interested in the back stories to what they buy. What they desire most of all in the design equation is the provenance. Knowing where it is made and, better again, who made it, is very important to them and the Temple family story gives them massive kudos on the world fashion stage.

You cannot get a more personal tweed story than Kieran Molloy, who will also be pedalling for Ireland on the Tokyo Tweed Run. Not so much competitive, the Tweed Run is more a 'moving conversation' about the highly durable fabric with its unique, internalised colour system.

When the recession hit and Kieran Molloy lost his job as an industrial designer, he teamed up with his dad, Shaun, and began the artisan company Molloy & Sons. In Tokyo he will be sharing his family story of how his great grandfather, Edward Molloy, began weaving in the 19th century and he is the sixth generation doing the same thing in the same spot.

Meanwhile, Hanna Hats is doffing its cap to Cork actor Cillian Murphy whose trademark 'newsboy' cap in the BBC television series Peaky Blinders sparked a whole new love affair with tweedy headgear.

Last month the company, founded by David Hanna senior, reported it was making 2,000 caps a week for the US market alone and typical of the organic nature of this business, it buys its tweed from a number of companies, including Magee, which is just around the corner on The Diamond in Donegal Town. Heritage always wins through and it turns out that its original cap is still the bestseller. John Hanna, who was famous in the tweed business in Ireland, sadly passed away this summer and his son, JP, will be travelling to Japan to tip his cap at growing the business. The other three fashion designers travelling to Japan are knitwear designer Colin Burke from Galway, John Hayes, GM of the Kilcar-based Fisherman out of Ireland and Eoin Dillon, the designer behind Reuben Avenue. Eoin uses biodegradable fabrics like silk, Irish linen and organic cotton threads. His social-media profile soared last week when Kim Kardashian wore his €350 'Nova' silk blouse and €340 pants in LA.

The seventh member of the team going to Japan is Rathbornes 1488, the world's oldest candle company, which still hand pours candles in Dublin. In addition, there will be 20 brands already seen by Japanese buyers at Showcase in Dublin last January.

The storytelling continues when the influential Senken trade magazine hosts a seminar devoted to the topic of Irish textiles and knitwear. So many rich stories to be told, the Japanese can't fail but to be intrigued by their Irish visitors.

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