Style Isle

A new era of design

It is quite well known that Ireland has no formal body to support and nurture the fashion industry, to provide the platform and opportunities that the British Fashion Council does for the UK, for example. Instead, we are fortunate to have some brands that recognise the need to encourage our up and coming talent from our amazing design colleges, and assist them to develop into the next phase of their career. One such brand is Persil, and for the last 14 years it has sponsored the annual Irish Fashion Awards, to identify and reward our country’s new design talent.

For the 2013 awards, Persil teamed up once again with the fashion super team of Peter O’Brien and Dunnes Stores’ Carolyn Donnelly as judges of this eagerly anticipated contest. The theme set for students this year was for them to celebrate their Irish heritage, roots, ties, and families. Naturally, the standard was exceptionally high and I was at the judging to see first hand what it takes to be the next top fashion designer.

The winner

The winning design, the recipient of the €10,000 prize money and the production of her design by Dunnes Stores, was Sinéad Kennedy. Sinéad, born in New York to Irish parents from Donegal and a former graduate of Dunshaughlin Community College, said: “My inspiration for my garment for this competition took its roots in traditional Irish music. Both my sisters and I play the fiddle. Both of my grandmothers were avid knitters, and my grandmother on my father's side recently kitted out myself and my sisters, and nearly all of our cousins, with expertly made Aran jumpers. The music and language have definitely been passed down through the generations.” Creating a monochrome striped short dress, with dramatic black layered ‘apron’ in crepe, Sinéad’s design won the hearts of both judges with Peter O’Brien commenting: “It is exciting to see emerging new talent; it gives one hope, particularly in the last few recessionary years. It’s heartening to see that despite cutbacks, doom and gloom, the exuberance and talent of our young designers is supported in this incredible way by Persil.”

The up and coming

The seven other finalists showcased eye-catching pieces from a lilac mini raincoat by Laura May Hegarty to a sleeveless jacket, wrap tunic, and trousers by Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD ) student Michael Stewart.

But one of the stand-out pieces for me, on a personal level, was by Sarah Ryan which I saw as one of the most commercially viable pieces. Inspired by her own family and siblings, the LSAD student says wanderlust and curious nature has lead them to every corner of the globe, with one common thread, they all unquestionably have returned home. She is inspired by the continual journey of the migratory patterns of birds. Through her designs she accentuates the body’s softness and contours in a modern, clean, way. The result was a really feminine soft pink dress, with appliqué ‘petals’ and pleating as a pretty detail to complete the dress.

The finalists of the Persil Irish Fashion Awards came from some of our excellent design schools such as NCAD and the Limerick School of Art and Design, and no doubt this is not the last we will hear of the finalists, Polina Yakobsen, Ailis Mara, Jessica Kavanagh, Ciara Kilbride, Laura May Hegarty, Michael Stewart, and of course, winner Sinéad Kennedy. Here’s to the future of fashion in Ireland, it’s in good hands.

Lorna Claire Weightman



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