The Irish boys of Central Saint Martins

There’s a pureness about how Irish women dress, says up and coming designer

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 01:00

Michael Power has lived in Gorey, Co Wexford, “all my life. It was a pretty traditional Irish childhood. I stayed there until I was 18, then I went to NCAD in Dublin. I did fashion design for four years.”

Power’s bursary-clenching, intricate, bead-and-mesh womenswear collection is based around three distinct influences: the swirling, circular sculptural forms of artist Jean Dubuffet; traditional Hopi kachina dolls “used to represent the gods and the spirits and all these different things, covered in all these amazing patterns”; and Daniel Cronin’s photobook, The Gathering of the Juggalos , a documentation of devoted fans of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse. “They’re just really sloppy, and they wear all these graphic T-shirts. It’s just really grungy and kind of horrible and . . . You know what I mean. And they wear this silly makeup.”

Modern primitivism
The three influences seem disparate, but all draw a line together of a modern primitivism – in pattern, ritual and, importantly, attitude. “I’m not really drawn to anything polite,” Power says. “I think it’s the edge that I was drawn to, really.”

Similarly, Parnell-Mooney is not interesting in straightforward, decorative notions of beauty. “I’m not a soft, lovey-dovey kind of person – I’m quite straight to the point and that comes across in my collection as well. Even in the way that things are done up: there aren’t 100 buttons, there’s one tie, you pull it in and you pull it out and you’re done.”

Parnell-Mooney’s collection was initially based on pictures of nuns in Dublin in the 1920s and 1930s. His menswear collection is severe, angular, minimal. “One of a nun’s main aims is to never have pride, so it’s very much about covering the body.”

Some of his looks are very heavy. “In some looks there’s two pairs of trousers, a shirt, a scarf, a jumper, a bib and a full hat. I suppose it comes from that idea of a nun getting dressed to cover up the body and to be completely humble.”

Is there such a thing as an underlying Irish aesthetic in design or in the way Irish women dress? “There is a look,” says Sean McGirr. “There’s a pureness about it. That’s what Irish fashion is all about, really – coming from the sticks, referencing rural life, something that feels really raw. There’s a real rawness about Irish design.”

“I think it’s very down to earth and I think it’s very real,” says Power. “There are no airs and graces about the way Irish women dress, and that’s nice.”

Parnell-Mooney sums it up: “People call it Catholic guilt but I actually think it’s the perfect example of being humble. [Irish women] are like, ‘Oh no, don’t look at me. I’m so shy, don’t, no.’ And they do look great, you know.”

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