Wednesday 17 January 2018

Going Girly: Natalie B Coleman's latest spring/summer collection

Tulle jacket, €630; trousers, €390, both Natalie B Coleman
Tulle jacket, €630; trousers, €390, both Natalie B Coleman

Natalie B Coleman's latest spring/summer collection was inspired by her first holiday away with her small daughter, Eden, when, last May, the two visited Inis Meain. Natalie had begun her career in fashion on the Aran Island, with an internship with the Inis Meain Knitting Company, before going on to study at the Limerick School of Art and Design and London's Central Saint Martins.

"The collection is called Donkey Love, which sounds a bit like a porno, but it's not," she laughs. "I was looking through the Inis Meain archives, and I saw a gorgeous picture of a boy from the 1950s wearing an Aran sweater. He had these lovely little knitted curls on the sleeve of his jumper. I was looking at those, and then I had this gorgeous, idyllic weekend. My little girl was sleeping on the beach, while I was looking at the donkeys and doing little drawings. That's kind of where the idea came from."

Her 2017 spring/summer collection signals something of a new direction for the designer. It's a softer, more romantic look, all diaphanous tulle and candy-striped jacquards.

"It's a very fun, feminine collection," says Natalie. "I think I'm really focusing on a kind of modern Irishness. I love all the handwork, and the heritage elements. But then I really like to contemporise things. To come from that starting point and see where I end up."

Having a daughter has definitely focused her attention on all things feminine, she reflects, but taking on a new role, just over a year ago, lecturing in fashion design in NCAD has also redefined her approach to her work. "I'm approaching it more as if I'm going back to college," she explains. "I'm doing a lot more handwork in my studio in Dublin. So there's more time invested in the pieces in hand-finishing and hand-sewing." Some of the smaller orders or the more expensive pieces are made in the studio in Dublin.

"When you're looking at the students working, you start re-examining what you were like when you were in college," Natalie explains. "I think I'm going back more to the fact that I absolutely love fashion. I just want to do clothes that make you want to drink gin and tonics or Champagne cocktails, and have the night of your life."

While the current collection is sweet and girlish, it's not insipidly so. The soft tulles in pink and black would work well worn with leather; while the asymmetrical candy-stripe dresses are reminiscent of Vivienne Westwood.

"I think there's a bit of grunge and gothic-ness in me," Natalie says. "I love that kind of attitude. Because our lives are so varied now, we're changing all the time. It's not that you're jumping from one style to another, it's just that you can mix them up and wear it in a different way, and it can work to your mood."

Photography by  Eilish McCormick

Words by  Liadan Hynes

Fashion edited by  Constance Harris

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