Sunday 22 April 2018

Sybil & co: Irish fashion design

Photography by Agata Stoinska, Styling by Roxanne Parker and Fashion edited by Constance Harris

Strapless satin and Carrickmacross-lace evening gown, Sybil Connolly. Sandals, €32.49, Aldo. Earrings, €16,500; collar, price on application; ring, €7,000, all Boodles. Gloves, €80, Dirty Fabulous
Strapless satin and Carrickmacross-lace evening gown, Sybil Connolly. Sandals, €32.49, Aldo. Earrings, €16,500; collar, price on application; ring, €7,000, all Boodles. Gloves, €80, Dirty Fabulous
Belted Donegal-tweed coat, €1,000, made to order, Ruth Duignan. Veiled headpiece, €125, Suzie Mahony. Earrings, €4,600, Boodles. Gloves, €70, Dirty Fabulous
Knitted dress with corsage detail, €1,350, made to order, Edmund McNulty. Net headpiece, €75, Suzie Mahony. Earrings, €7,000, Boodles
Pleated linen dress with crochet and ribbon detail, Sybil Connolly. Earrings, €90; necklace, €160; gloves, €80, all Dirty Fabulous. Bracelet, price on application; ring, €7,500; both Boodles
Tiered knit dress, €1,600, made to order, Edmund McNulty. Earrings, price on application; necklace, price on application, both Boodles
Belted lace coat, €420; silk dress, €450, both Eilis Boyle. Earrings, €4,400, Boodles
Straw and net headpiece, €100, Suzie Mahony
Figured-satin wedding dress and veil, Sybil Connolly. Earrings, €70; gloves, €65, both Dirty Fabulous

Constance Harris

While creativity is often the product of patrons and commercial support, it is equally born of the desire to do something from the heart.

And sometimes a project of the heart needs a commercial sponsor to really see it expand. Uncommon Threads is one such project.

Photographer Agata Stoinska and fashion consultant Eddie Shanahan wanted to do something to celebrate Irish fashion design at a time when it most needs support. They also wanted to acknowledge the wonderful antecedents to that heritage -- and look after it, too.

The glorious, elegant pictures on our fashion pages are from their collaboration. In it, the work of contemporary Irish designers was shot as reverently as the work of Sybil Connolly, the grande dame of Irish fashion, would have been in her heyday. And, thanks to the Hunt Museum in Limerick, Ms Connolly's work was photographed on a woman, and not a mannequin as museums tend to do, largely due to the fragility of antique fabric.

"I feel Irish designers do not get credit for their craft; the true element that differentiates them from the high street," Eddie told me. "I wanted them to get a chance to exhibit their craftsmanship."

Now that fashion is finally over its fascination with pomp and ceremony, it is getting thoughtful, becoming interested in concepts such as form, meaning, class and craft. Craft is skill combined with knowledge. John Rocha is a big proponent. So is Lainey Keogh.

If Uncommon Threads gets the sponsorship it needs, maybe the eight elegant shots made so far of Irish designers, including Edmund McNulty, Eilis Boyle, Ruth Duignan and Suzie Mahony, could expand further to reflect more of Irish fashion, become a travelling exhibition to promote our industry.

As it was, Eddie and Agata were struck by how little resources are given to national treasures such as the Sybil Connolly archive, which she bequeathed to the Hunt Museum.

"The museum is doing an amazing job with little support. They are custodians of national treasures, but they can't afford to do all that needs to be done.

"We produce extraordinary design talent -- an amazing feat for a small country," Eddie explained.

We do have a lot to celebrate. We are an amazing country for talent and enterprise. We are more than troubled balance sheets.

And there is nothing like a beautiful fashion moment -- or exhibition -- to inspire excitement and optimism.


The Sybil Connolly Collection can be seen at the Hunt Museum, Rutland St, Limerick, tel: (061) 312-833, or see


Dirty Fabulous, 21 Wicklow St, D2, tel: (01) 611-1842, or see

Ruth Duignan, see or email

Suzie Mahony, Comhcheol, Rafarn, Loughrea, Co Galway, tel: (091) 847-326, or see

Edmund McNulty, Studio 7, Millmount Craft Centre, Drogheda, Co Louth, tel: (041) 984-4199, or see Eilis Boyle, Bow Boutique, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Sth William St, D2.

Photography by Agata Stoinska, see

Styling by Roxanne Parker, see

Concept and art direction by Eddie Shanahan, email

Make-up by Lucy Browne Hair by Billy Orr for Morgan The Agency, see

Models: Nikki Bonass, Laoise Quinn, Iseult Timmons Ward and Jayne Wilde at Morgan The Agency, see

Special thanks to the management and staff at the Hunt Museum, Limerick All prices correct at time of going to press. Some may be reduced as a result of January discounts

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