Saturday 16 December 2017

To the Waters and the Wild

To the Waters and the Wild

Bawneen and hessian bomber jacket, €710; bawneen skirt, €498, both Alison Conneely, Havana. Boots, stylist’s own
Bawneen and hessian bomber jacket, €710; bawneen skirt, €498, both Alison Conneely, Havana. Boots, stylist’s own
Wool-crepe blouse with plastic insert, €485; bawneen skirt, €523, both to order, Alison Conneely.
Donegal-tweed coat, €1,225, Alison Conneely, Emporium Kalu; Havana.
Mohair and wool-crepe dress, €1,027, to order, Alison Conneely.
Wool-crepe top, €442; wool-crepe skirt, €445, both Alison Conneely, Emporium Kalu; Havana.
Wool-crepe and crepe-de-Chine blouse, €485; wool-crepe skirt, €445, both Alison Conneely, Emporium Kalu; Havana.
Bawneen gilet, €579; wool-crepe skirt, €289, both to order, Alison Conneely.

Constance Harris

The label Eme Vandal, born in 2006, is no more. Its creator, Alison Conneely, has decided to give her collections her own name instead.

"I was very happy to let it go. Eme Vandal was a great learning curve," Alison told me when we met in her studio in a ghostly old Georgian house on North Great George's Street. "My mother asked me, too, why I didn't design under my own name. At the time, I wasn't ready. I think it takes a long time to find your place as a designer. That comes from inside."

For such a confident, competent design voice as Alison Conneely's, to seem hesitant is surprising; from the moment I met her back in the mid-Noughties, she struck me as a discerning, international-design savvy creator, as well as artistic and sensitive.

For the royal wedding of William and Kate, Gemma Billington, an artist and a good friend of Carol Middleton, commissioned Alison to make her wardrobe. In typical fashion, Alison told no one she was creating outfits to be worn at the world's most chronicled social event in 30 years. It was Gemma Billington, who is originally from Kerry, who told the world about the designer behind her sublime ensembles.

Alison Conneely's silhouette is long and lean, but not body con. Serenity, mixed with a cutting-edge sensibility, puts it in the realm of fashion-forward. She is part of the movement of designers -- JW Anderson, Martin Margiela -- who are focusing on consciousness, craftsmanship and context.

This collection, named Bella's Faul, after Alison's grandmother, is trans-seasonal. It is inspired by Alison's home in Faul, Connemara; by her family, her heritage, and by the history and craftsmanship of Ireland.

"The collection is all based on my grandmother, Bella; my grandfather, Festie; and my father, who raises Connemara ponies. It is looking at geology and mythologies, the land, the hawthorn," she says. "I was exploring sentiment, a visceral thing. It's probably my most intimate and personal collection."

Alison has elegantly, but interestingly, mixed fabrics, all sourced in Ireland and Britain, to illustrate the contrasting textures of nature -- long-haired mohair is set into crepe-de-Chine; bawneen wool is used with patent leather; complex, hand-appliqued silk and demi-sheer latex are set on to dresses and tops.

Coats and capes sell exclusively in Emporium Kalu, Naas; and Havana in Dublin. The collection also consists of about 14 complex bespoke pieces, available to order. Characters from Alison's childhood are in the collection -- Chrissie, Cait and Mary Hogan have garments named after them -- as does her beloved, late grandmother, Bella, who worked her fields until she was 97.

So there is strength of character and longevity in these names, as there is in this collection.


All clothes featured are by Alison Conneely from the Bella's Faul collection

To order, tel: (086) 171-5364, or see or email

Selected items from the Bella’s Faul collection are available from:

Emporium Kalu,

16 South Main St, Naas, Co Kildare,

tel: (045) 896-222


2 Anglesea House,

Donnybrook, D4,

tel: (01) 260-2707,

or see


Photography by Nick West,


Assisted by Philip White

Styling by Alison Conneely,


Assisted by Aine Geoghegan

and Ciara Murphy

Hair and make-up by Leonard Daly,


Model: Carrie Anne Crolly Burton at Morgan The Agency

Shot in D-Light Studios,



A big thank you to Eric Conneely for transporting the stones and trees from Connemara to recreate Bella's Faul

Irish Independent

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