Thursday 17 January 2019

Irish fashion world bids farewell to Richard Lewis

Marian Finucane and her husband John Clarke at a remembrance service for fashion designer, Richard Lewis at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dunlin. Pic; Damien Eagers
Marian Finucane and her husband John Clarke at a remembrance service for fashion designer, Richard Lewis at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dunlin. Pic; Damien Eagers
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Figures from the world of fashion, the theatre and the creative arts gathered in the Victorian chapel of Mount Jerome crematorium to celebrate the life and times of couturier Richard Lewis.

The 73-year-old was an important and influential figure in the Irish fashion world over 50 years and he died at St James's hospital last week after suffering a stroke and a brave battle with cancer.

The ladies in Richard's life - his clients and friends - arrived wearing the many outfits he had made for them before retiring three years ago.

Broadcaster Marian Finucane arrived with her husband, John, wearing a striking purple dress and mohair jacket the couturier made for her. A loyal customer over many years, she said Richard was "a gentle soul" and she chose him to make the outfit for her wedding.

Breffni Ryan, right and Michael Doyle at a service in memory of fashion designer, Richard Lewis at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin. Pic credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Breffni Ryan, right and Michael Doyle at a service in memory of fashion designer, Richard Lewis at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin. Pic credit; Damien Eagers / INM

Richard's only sibling, his sister Mary, presented Fr Paul Ward  with a number of personal offerings including examples of his work and a photograph featuring his muse, model Sharon Donnelly (nee Bacon) who was abroad but sent her condolences to his family and friends.

There were the red Puma shoes that Richard bought in Barcelona after he went to scatter the ashes of his partner, Jim Greeley, who died from a heart attack 12 years ago, and whose death the designer never really got over.

Fr Paul joked that he was wearing the only Richard Lewis-designed priest alb in existence which had been a gift for a birthday.

Photographer Breffni Ryan recalled how, when they discovered in 1972 that they were both dating the same girl, himself and Richard went off to the pub together and became best pals and were to work together for decades.

1/10/2018, Barry Mccall, fashion photographer arrives at a service in memory of fashion designer, Richard Lewis at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin. Pic credit; Damien Eagers / INM
1/10/2018, Barry Mccall, fashion photographer arrives at a service in memory of fashion designer, Richard Lewis at Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin. Pic credit; Damien Eagers / INM

Jackie Donnelly, the woman in question had the congregation in fits of laughter when she recalled Richard's opinionated ways "and love of a good argument even over something like a zebra crossing."

She told how she went off to live in England and when she returned, Richard introduced her to Jim whom he met while volunteering with The Samaritans, and it was clear for all to see that the two had found their soul mates for life.

The congregation listened to UB40's Red Red Wine which was Richard's favourite song. Baton artist, Bernadette Madden, recalled his loyalty and a friendship that went back to their days in neighbouring flats on Herbert Place in the 1970s.

Mary Lewis thanked the staff and doctors of St Luke's and St James and Richard's kind neighbours.

Finian O'Shea recalled how after he retired, Richard went computer shopping and after a walk through the store, he made his final choice of laptop not on its spec, or shape "but because it was purple."

Tona O'Brien, friend and client spoke of the man who had great elegance and a great sense of humour, especially about himself.

Mourners at the ceremony included fellow fashion designers Peter O'Brien, Mariad Whisker and Deborah Veale, photographers Mike Bunn and Barry McCall, former models Sonia Reynolds and Mari O'Leary, long-term friends Maura Smith, Barbara Baker and Sharon Harris.

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