Pat Crowley, pioneer of traditional fabrics, dies at 80

Crowley was one of first to use traditional Irish fabrics and knit in fresh and innovative ways

Pat Crowley, who has died in a Dublin nursing home, was known for her use of Irish crochet and tweed. She later expanded to a couture range which she sold in her Duke Street shop.  Photograph: Eric Luke

Pat Crowley, who has died in a Dublin nursing home, was known for her use of Irish crochet and tweed. She later expanded to a couture range which she sold in her Duke Street shop. Photograph: Eric Luke

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 01:00

The death has taken place in a Dublin nursing home of the fashion designer Pat Crowley, who pioneered the use of traditional fabrics in high fashion. She was 80 years old.

Known for her use of Irish crochet and tweed, she later expanded to a couture range which she sold in her Duke Street shop in Dublin, alongside the work of other European designers such as Valentino and Ungaro.

At one point she employed about 600 knitters.

She was one of the first to use traditional Irish fabrics and knit in fresh and innovative ways and attracted the attention of high-profile US socialites like the Whitneys and the Kennedys.

After a successful fashion show in New York, she returned every year to the US to show her collections.

At home her many clients included Mary Robinson, Kathleen Watkins, the late Miranda Iveagh and Terry Keane.

Born in the west of Ireland, she trained at the Grafton Academy after a brief period as an Aer Lingus hostess.


Knitwear designer
She worked with the Dublin-based fashion designer Irene Gilbert from 1960 to 1968 before setting up on her own initially as a knitwear designer.

Strikingly handsome and stylish and an astute businesswoman, she was known for both practical daywear and romantic evening wear.

She was the best advertiser of her clothes, compering her own fashion shows at her boutique in Molesworth Place.

Married to the businessman Conor Crowley of the accountancy firm Stokes Kennedy Crowley, whom she met at a rugby international, they had three children, Vernon, Fiona and Lisa, and lived in Dolly’s Grove in Dunboyne, Co Meath, a 62-acre stud farm where she rode out every day.

After Conor Crowley’s sudden death in 1999, she retired in 2000 and sold the stud a year later for €4.25 million.