Thursday, 12 February 2015

Year of Irish Design: 15 Favourite Irish Designers/Brands for 2015

As the first in my dedicated Year of Irish Design posts, I wanted to talk through fifteen of my favourite Irish designers and brands. Some of these are labels I write about all the time and their inclusion will be of no surprise to long-term or sometime readers. Others are less frequently mentioned but always admired. They run the gamut between long-established and up-and-coming, internationally recognised and nationally treasured, independent and collaborations with major stores. But they're all Irish and, more importantly, outstanding. Hopefully you'll agree and/or find some new favourites of your own.

NATALIEBCOLEMAN - Natalie is a busy woman. She completed her undergrad in Fashion in Limerick and then a MA at Central St Martins and worked for other labels before establishing her own eponymous line in 2011. And she now continues to design for her own label while working as the Director and Lecturer for fashion design courses at LA College of Creative arts in Dublin. Her clothes are romantic, tongue-in-cheek, playful, rich in detail and so contemporary and wearable. Each collection has a strong narrative basis that informs the direction of the clothing and makes you immediately want to step into the world evoked by Coleman. Her latest collection is inspired by her late mother and is particularly beautiful. And if none of the above has sold the label to you yet, (if it hasn't, what's wrong with you?) Natalie also happens to be one of the sweetest people you'll meet.

Screenshot 2015-02-11 23.42.12


Lennon Courtney - Lennon Courtney comes from super-stylists turned designers, Sonya Lennon and Brendan Courtney. They make quality clothes that would fit into any wardrobe and that flatter the female form. With each collection being designed with the potential clothing needs of a contemporary woman for that season taken into consideration. They are designers who come from a strong reality-based point of view, knowing what women want and need and merging that with style and elegance. The clothes are structured, classic pieces that would prove sound investments for present and future alike. Based, and often present, at their location in The Central Dairy on Stephen Street, Dublin 2, which is fronted by a dedicated store. And what a shopping experience - it's just the most lovely, quaint space and there's always a chance you might get advice directly from the source if you pop in to grab something.


J.W. Anderson - I tend to get a wee bit preachy and swoony when I talk about Mr Anderson. His presence on this blog is rather large as I rarely go a season without some mention of either (or both) his menswear or womenswear collections. Derry born, Anderson first trained as an actor before following his love of clothing into menswear at the London College of Fashion. He originally focused solely on menswear with the launch of his label in 2008 but was soon prompted into womenswear by interest and demand. His clothes are exploratory revelations, they look at gender roles and norms, they look at our relationship with clothes. They challenge and astound in one breath. They evolve and progress around central ideas in a way that reminds me of Le Corbusier. And, by God, has his career taken a similar path to major international success.

Pre AW15

We Are Islanders - I first heard of the label through a press email I was sent a couple of years ago. One of the first of such emails that I ever got - far before it became the norm. So, I was understandably touched and intrigued. But that initial enticement proved to be so much more. We Are Islanders is a Dublin-based label that fuses art and fashion in the most delightful of ways. They create trans-seasonal collections with only sustainable materials and are dedicated to fusing style with conscientiousness and better practice. The clothes are visually intriguing, encompass strong silhouettes and striking graphics and manage to combine drama with restraint. Styled for shoots they make an immediate impact but they could equally be readily incorporated into wardrobes.

Joanne Hynes - The Joanne Hynes girl is no shrinking violet but she is very much polished and purposeful. She stands out but for all the right reasons and while her accessories are bold, they are never too much. She makes a statement but it's said rather than shouted. A graduate of Central Saint Martins and one of Ireland's many multi-tasking fashion powerhouses, Hynes also works as a Stylist, Image Consultant and mentor. Perhaps most well-known for her iconic collars but so much more than that. She manages to thread a precarious but extremely skilful line between maximalism and minimalism.


Danielle Romeril - A relatively young label, it was founded by Dublin-born Romeril in 2013 after studying at the Limerick School of Art and Design and completing a MA at the Royal College of Art in London. Her own line was established three years after graduating and after time with Sharon Wauchob, Sinha-Stanic and Alberta Ferretti. Since then, she has gained NEWGEN sponsorship from the British Fashion Council and has been supported by Topshop. Her clothes are exciting, vibrant, full of youthfulness


Maud & Minet - Kitty Moss is kinda my idol. She's a talented illustrator, artist and designer and hilarious to boot (and provides a mean spread if you ever get the chance to pop over to her house). Her clothing line, Maud and Minet, is the most wonderfully spooky, haunting creation to grace this post. The clothes are more couture than RTW, as each piece is made to order and handmade and hand-finished. No two garments are alike, even if the same design, as they are made in accordance with their wearer. As illustration proves to be Kitty's main focus, there isn't a seasonal showing from the label but what has been produced so far is divine. I'm talking all my witchy, lacy, veily dreams come true. I'm talking proper beauty. Sigh.

Simone Rocha - The pressure to excel in a field in which a parent has had extraordinary success must be intense. People expect you to rest on your laurels or fail but not Simone Rocha. She is very much her own person, her own designer, her own success. She trained at NCAD, Dublin and then Central Saint Martins, London before lanching in 2010. In the very short space of time since then she has become a mainstay of the wardrobes of the young, beautiful and famous, won multiple awards for her work and has continued to produce her own collections alongside collaborations with the likes of J Brand. Her clothes are whimsical, playful and wonderfully pretty in a less-than-obvious way. They're for girls that like to take a risk but look cute, that like to have fun with their clothes. They re-imagine traditional pieces with a large dose of humour.


Honor Fitzsimons - Having trained in Central Saint Martins, interning at Louise Goldin and Diane Von Furstenberg and working in Paris, London and Amsterdam, Fitzsimons brings together hard work, great career and life experience with her innate talent. A knitwear and womenswear designer who is no stranger to Irish publications and Irish institutions of fashion like Brown Thomas, her clothes charm the pants off you. They're sweet reimaginings of knitwear traditions with a real sense of ease about them. They are wearable and contemporary and, while sweet, have just enough edge.

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Chupi - My oldest friend, whose sense of style I trust beyond all others', was my first intro to Chupi Sweetman-Pell's work. She had a stall at a market in Dublin back then, if I remember correctly, and then suddenly was being stocked by Topshop as if overnight. In 2011, she turned her hand to jewellery which is now her main output. She produces romantic, delicate, beautiful pieces that always have the sweetest names and concepts. The perfect things to give loved ones. That the label is designed and made in Ireland is a lovely bonus!

Capulet and Montague - Capulet and Montague is a jewellery line and the brain child of designer Lisa McCormack. Her pieces are sleek, mesmerising feats of design. They use modern materials and sleek contemporary forms, employing craft techniques and allowing the nature of the materials to help decide their ultimate form. My first interaction with her label was in Atelier 27 in Om Diva, where she is stocked, and I was immediately enamoured with her cuffs. Can you say beyond gorgeous?

Muireann Walshe - Muireann and I ended up doing the same Masters course together last year at NCAD, where I was introduced to her work. Her jewellery line is fun, energetic and vibrant, echoing the creator herself. It combines old and new ideas and materials, making something fresh and intriguing of things we think we know. Her re-imagining of the iconic Tara Brooch for her undergrad degree in Craft Design at NCAD is what first gained Muireann attention and accolades for her work -think history meets pop-art. However, it is her great eye paired with a seriously impressive knowledge of her materials and her craft that sets Muireann apart.

Imperfect Earrings in Teal

Dunnes Stores - My love of Dunnes and admiration of their evolution in recent years should come as no surprise but the concept of long-term collaborations with esteemed Irish designers such as Carolyn Donnelly, Paul Costelloe and (the lovely) Helen James is both fascinating and clever. I can't wait to see what this household name and Irish institution continues to do in the future.


Alan Taylor - Taylor is a Dublin-born menswear designer who graduated from NCAD in 2010 and worked with another designer on this list, Simone Rocha, before starting his own label in 2011. His clothes run the gamut of wearable and traditional to highly conceptual and challenging and combine solid design and high, far flung ideas and inspirations. Taylor regularly produces amazing video pieces to showcase his work and is one of the brands to be showcased in the recently opened Nowhere on Aungier Street, Dublin.


Helen Steele - Helen is one of the most interesting characters I've had the privilege to chat with (she used to be in a thrash metal band). She also produces garments that might not seem to be my cup of tea upon first glance, considering my love for all-black outfits. But the colour and pattern in her clothes is so joyous and full of life that I find myself utterly taken with it. Helen combines her art background and practice with her clothes to make something truly special and the world has taken notice as a result, with huge success globally and celebrity patronage. 


So there you have it! Some amazing design talent has been coming from Ireland in recent years! Let's give them our support and celebrate their skill.

Happy Year of Irish Design!

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