Super cool cats
I am a huge fan of Dunnes Stores's designer collections. But I take my hat off to designer and artist Helen Steele, and Dunnes Stores's ladies-fitness-wear buyer, Nicola Hickey, on the company's newest designer collaboration - Helen Steele X Dunnes Stores.
The collection is a dynamically designed workout gear and lifestyle range, on sale from next Tuesday, with plans for second and third collections in April and July, respectively.
"Being strong is the new pretty," says Helen when we meet in Dunnes HQ to discuss the range. "It's not about skinny. It is about being strong and happy with your strong, healthy body, no matter what age you are.
"Young women embrace their shape and love colour. We feel very strongly about giving all women style and performance. We go from small to double XL [size 26]. The silhouettes are very oversized. So everyone has an equal choice in looking good."
The Helen Steele X Dunnes Stores range bounces off the rails with Helen's trademark exciting colour and bold prints - this season being zebra and splatter motifs, as well as bold colour-blocks - that are applied to performance-wear and street-wear. No surprise considering Helen has designed for stars of pop, dance and screen - Jessie J, Rita Ora and K-pop bands, to classy dames Amy Huberman and Saoirse Ronan.
Base performance layers are vests, leggings, tops, crop tops, all with four-way stretch and moisture management. Long-sleeved tops have thumb-holes to conserve body heat. There are coordinating lightweight, water-repellent outer jackets, and a super-cool, shiny-finish puffer.
Street-wear is any of the above teamed with Helen's super-oversize sweatshirts and cotton T-shirts. Perfect for downtime. Or nights on the town. Prices are awesomely impressive.
"I am passionate about the functionality of the garments," says Nicola, a dedicated athlete of marathons, triathlons and Ironmans. "I 100pc stand behind the performance of our garments. They have been worn and tested."
Emotional, as well as physical, comfort has been considered, too: vests are longer at the back to conceal one's bottom, while tops have modesty panels built in; crop tops are longer line; leggings have wide elastic waistbands, as well as high waists, to avoid rolling under one's stomach. It's all about comfort, performance, wearability, and durability.
"It has been amazing to work with Helen who has brought a whole new freshness - of print, vibrancy, youth and energy to Dunnes Stores," says Nicola.
Fair dues to all.
Photography by Emily Quinn
Fashion edited by Constance Harris