The Irish boys of Central Saint Martins
There’s a pureness about how Irish women dress, says up and coming designer
Three's company: (left to right)Sean McGirr, Michael Power and Rory Parnell-Mooney
Michael Power at the Central St Martins show at London fashion week
Meet Rory Parnell-Mooney, Sean McGirr and Michael Power. To employ an overstuffed pun, they’re in a class of their own – that class being the notoriously tough MA in Fashion at London’s Central Saint Martins. The three represent the largest nationality pie-slice of this year’s graduates, a small class of 21. “I don’t think there are even three English people in the year,” says Parnell-Mooney.
It is the most respected course of its kind in the world, with an astonishing number of graduates at the helm of their own label (think Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, or Ireland’s own Simone Rocha) or in covetable positions at other companies. Michael Power, one of the course’s stars and a winner of the L’Oreal bursary, which is awarded to students for an outstanding graduate collection, applied to Central Saint Martins “just because of the alumni, really. You know, it has such a reputation. There’s so much mystery around it – from the outside you’re not too sure what to expect. I used to look at the show every year and just be amazed at what was being created.”
Under the supervision of the singular Prof Louise Wilson, the three have undergone a fairly gruelling two-year personal and creative process to finish their graduate collections.
“You’re always a piece of shit,” says the admirably blunt Galwegian Parnell-Mooney. “Then [Wilson] says that something’s OK, and you hold on to that little glimmer of ‘OK’ for the rest of the year and then eventually she says the word ‘fab’ and you go outside of the room and you start crying. I haven’t done that, though. I haven’t cried once on this course. Not once.”
It’s difficult to draw a connecting line between the three designers’ graduate work, so diverse are their influences and outcomes. Sean McGirr’s menswear collection, in white denim with powerful graphic blue biro scribbles, is about “rent boys. Of course you can’t print that,” he says, laughing.
He has a true and lasting love for denim. “Denim is quite an easy fabric to work with, but then you finish it like you would a tailored jacket or you do a huge amount of hand-stitching and make it really beautiful, so yeah. I always think that denim is quite important. It can be reworked and reworked and reworked.”
His fashion education has been unusually diverse, with interning stints at Burberry, Vogue Hommes International Japan and Taiwanese fabric producer Singtex. He has also worked as a writer for trend-forecasting company Stylus. “Huge amount of research. Massive,” say McGirr.
He’s close to his grandmother, who fed his love for fashion. “I was talking to her about my graduate collection last Sunday and she was like, ‘Are you not doing any hats? You should really do a hat like that one you did before.’ She’s always giving me ideas, and sometimes she’s really on the money.”