Our European counterparts, such as France and Italy in particular, have been long standing pioneers of design. So much so both Paris and Milan have been the launch pad for many a great name including Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Tom Ford. However, as of late, our own shores have produced some of the best talent in the world of fashion who can more than compete with some of the more internationally known designers. Look at how well the likes of Paul Costello, John Rocha, Joanne Hynes and Orla Kiely have been internationally; with role models like these to look to, new Irish designers have the fashion world at their sewing machines.
The ones rocking the capital….
So this week I went on a mission to take a closer look at designers who will become household names, from clothes to jewellery. Dublin is now home to a design collaborative called Project 51 (www.project51.ie ), which houses designers such as Sinéad Doyle, Claire O’Connor, Jennifer Rothwell and Eoin McDonnell. Not only can the exquisite collections from each of the 14 designers involved be viewed and purchased; the space has become a hub of design with workshops and showrooms all located onsite. A couple months back Sinéad Doyle gave me the grand tour and I was overwhelmed by the entrepreneurial spirit shown by the designers, not only in terms of creativity but to work together to build a platform to showcase their talent. Evening wear, contemporary fashion, and beautifully crafted accessories are there to be admired and by having this hub, it means we the consumer can easily support and buy Irish.
And when Rihanna likes something…
Going it alone is a daunting challenge, but one fashionable success story I always revert to is that of designer Merle O’Grady who is widely known for her industrial style jewellery. Having learned her trade here, she relocated to London where today she is one of the most sought after designers with even Rihanna being a fan. Her handmade creations are edgy but wearable and make great statement pieces to add to any outfit for that wow factor (www.merleogrady.com ).
From design to fabric…
We are a country of superb resources, one of which is wool. Now I’m not talking the wool used in Aran jumpers here; more so finer, tangible wools such as those famously made by Foxford Mills, Co Mayo. I never used to consider wool as a fashionable fabric, per se, until Lainey Keogh hit the scene which made me reconsider my inhibited views. Designers like Lainey make wool intriguing and modern to me and I am fascinated by their influences and even how each piece is so intricately made. Cork based designers Charlotte and Jane are also wool fans but more well known for their vintage inspired linen dresses. Influenced by times past, the design duo make “made to measure” dresses via their website (www.charlotteandjane.com ) in a variety of styles, all of which are priced affordably, with no sacrifice on quality. Frequently dressing rockabilly singer Imelda May, Charlotte and Jane have build a dedicated national following. Also take a look at their fabulous array of print dresses which introduce some fun into fashion.
But where does a designer start?
Many of the country’s most successful designers are not only the product of our astounding design colleges like NCAD and Limerick Institute of Technology, but have achieved great heights through the awards process like the Nokia Young Fashion Designer, to the recently launched scarf competition for Irish Designers by Arnotts who have teamed up with Beta Fashions for this project. NCAD graduate, Amanda Grogan won the coveted Mittel Moda design competition in 2010 which provided her with a chance to show her collection at Milan Fashion week. I interviewed her shortly after the win and she was astounded at the exposure her collection had attracted both here and abroad. It is great to see brands and competitions encourage new talent such as Amanda, and give them the backing they need to start on their own.
So whether you are a budding designer or just like to dabble in a little make and do at home, there is inspiration all around you and plenty of home grown talent to support. The next time you need a new outfit, for a special occasion or a celebration, take some time to seek out new Irish brands, shops and designers. You never know what you might find.