Hide and chic
The designer and artist Roisin Gartland is making a return to fashion with a new range of leather accessories. Photographs by Alan Betson
Her name and that of her family have been synonymous with leather and craftsmanship for decades. Daughter of a Dublin furrier, Róisín Gartland, second youngest of a family of 11 from Crumlin, learnt her trade initially at her father’s side and went on to become a fashion designer with a stellar list of clients. Known in Ireland for her leatherwork for more than 20 years, she is now focusing on the US and Japan and specialist shops “that value the beauty and benefit of low volume products”.
Leather trousers for Sean Penn, jackets for Bono for U2’s world tour in 2010 and a shearling gilet for Brian Friel are some of her more notable pieces, alongside one-off items created for private clients, movies and TV series such as Ripper Street.
Now, after an absence of some years, during which she completed a Masters in sculpture at NCAD, Gartland has returned to fashion with a collection of handmade leather and sheepskin accessories – bags, gloves and collars - in a range of colours – aimed at an export market.
At her studio in the Trinity Enterprise Centre in Pearse Street, surrounded by her pattern table and specialist sewing machines, she makes everything by hand and feels ready to return “on my own terms, not on everyone else’s bidding”.
Her hides come from tanneries all over the world, sourced from trade fairs in Bologna. There are superfine Kobe hides from Japan, soft Spanish merinos, Ethiopian hairsheep, unpigmented “uncorrected” leathers from Italy. There are painted and patterned “jelly” leathers fashioned into small cross-body travel bags for passports and money that can be folded up and put in a handbag. “I use them all the time, so they have been road tested.”
Other items include bigger satchels and a drawstring backpack with contrast trim.
It makes commercial sense for a solo enterprise to create smaller, more affordable products rather than the bigger specialist pieces that take time and effort to complete. The sage hairsheep coat she wears here (right), for example, moulded from seven hides, using the shape of the body and natural line of the hides normally takes two to three months to finish and cost around €2,500.
The same skills go into the smaller items, fashioned with similar care. Prices start at €95 for fingerless gloves, €145 for small travel purses up to €650 for big satchels.
Róisín Gartland will be exhibiting at Showcase, from January 19th to 22nd in the RDS.