Sunday 15 December 2019

Waist land: An obsession that's made in Dublin

Photography by Maciej Pestka, fashion edited by Constance Harris

Silk and lace layered, belted
dress with cuff detail, €2,850
Silk and lace layered, belted dress with cuff detail, €2,850
Silk-crepe coat with hand-beaded lace detail on back, and layered, gathered silk-crepe and chiffon lower section, €3,850; hand-beaded lace and silk turtleneck top, €985; matching Capri pants, €895

Constance Harris

'When we design collections, we always start with one really strong piece. Then we break it down into elements, inspired by that piece. That creates a strong cohesiveness in our look. It also makes it more wearable," Donald Brennan of Tyrrell & Brennan, couturiers, told me.

"We are tailors, as well as couturiers; fit is everything for us," said Niall Tyrrell. "And we are obsessive about service: sometimes customers will have five fittings for a garment."

We are sitting in Tyrrell & Brennan's salon on Pembroke Street. All around me is their gently evocative couture collection: I see it as quite passionate, for all its demure sensuality. Tyrrell & Brennan work with classic couture fabrics such as silk faille -- a stiff fabric, ideal for holding a design's shape -- as well as delicious wool crepe, the fabric this coming autumn, and sumptuous silk jersey, satin, crepe and georgette.

Fifteen years ago, Donald and Niall launched their first label, Oakes, creating ready-to-wear specifically for the professional woman, with an original, add-on service, offering "made to fit". The fact they were willing to tackle tricky issues such as shortening or lengthening sleeves, improving the bodice, and so on, was an enterprising, successful approach.

"Fifteen years later, we find ourselves back to that market, looking after powerful, professional women and their workwear. As well as women for whom quality occasionwear is important," Niall said.

I invited the guys onto RTE's Open House when I used to present a fashion slot on the show, where they were very popular. Friendly, unassuming men, they are passionate about their work, and love seeing women enjoy their clothes. Their designs are always wearable, vibrant, and softly feminine, with a slight retro feel. Their current collection is gorgeously Forties in both shape and details.

"It's all about the waist," says Niall, "and making the most of the curviness of a women's shape."

There are elements of Dolce & Gabbana about this collection; it is slightly vampy while keeping to classically tailored shapes. There is a light touch evident in their use of lace, and fabrics such as Lurex jersey. They cater for sizes 8-18, and never forget there are many stages in a woman's life to be taken care of.

Every piece is handmade in Dublin. I find it moving that their label even states "Dublin" on it. It is a point of pride with Niall and Donald. Deservedly so.


Tyrrell & Brennan, 13 Lower Pembroke St, D2, tel: (01) 678-8332, or see

Fitzpatricks Shoes, 76 Grafton St, D2, tel: (01) 677-2333, and Dundrum Town Centre, D16, tel: (01) 298-3270.

Photography by Maciej Pestka, tel: (086) 722-7272, or see

Hair by Sandra Crosbie, tel: (087) 620-5159, or see

Make-up by Aisling Eyre, tel: (087) 247-5335, or see

Model: Michelle Laura at Compton Model Agency, tel: (01) 707-9811, or see

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