Cold sea swimmers (and there are many of them these days) may be lured into the deep waters of Helen Steele’s latest collection for Dunnes Stores called On Track with its affordable range of swimsuits (with sleeves!), hoodies, puffer jackets and fleecy jumpers for those braving the elements. It’s aimed at the outdoors generally, for those who love to walk, swim, work out or run.
"It's about keeping you cool in your workout, strong in your swim, with colour shades and prints to energise," says the designer. Find the On Track collection in selected Dunnes Stores and online at dunnesstores.com. The swimsuit featured here is €25.
Shades of Spain
Barcelona super stylist Blanca Miro admits that she cannot go anywhere without sunglasses and changes them twice a day, drawing from a collection of about 90 pairs. Now she is designing her own on her label Delarge, whose debut collection called Geometric Twist comes in 23 zany geometric shapes and in bright colours. Produced in limited editions in a small family workshop in Greece, the shades for ski or seaside cost from €215. Visit delarge.com
The Kind Bag is a specially developed tote from a company recycling old plastic bottles with the aim of reducing single-use plastic. Each tote recycles six and has the capacity equivalent to three regular plastic bags. Silky and super strong, each tote has long shoulder straps, an inner button closure pocket and can hold a 16-inch laptop. They come in a variety of prints, from geometrics to William Morris and in tartans and checks.
Gold for wool
Cornwall-based surf brand Finisterre, founded by cold-water surfer Tom Kay in 2003, began with an innovative fleece designed to keep out chill winds and warm up cold bodies. Since then, the company has grown and has stores all over the UK but has never lost its pioneering approach to making better and more sustainable products – most notably with its Bowmont project which aims to put wool at the centre of its fabric development.
Finisterre won a gold award at ISPO 2021 for the Biosmock, a top that has been described by the judges as a "leading example of the circular economy in performance apparel". The top uses compostable polyester for shell and lining, wool insulation sourced from Yorkshire wool merchants and biodegradable snap fasteners. It goes on sale in autumn and costs €314, including shipping and customs. Finisterre.com
Despite its name, this new Irish knitwear company doesn’t draw its inspiration from Aran sweaters, but from the Waterford Walls street art festival. Founded by Waterford city native Christine Murphy, formerly of the Westbury Hotel, Urban Aran’s bold, vibrant designs marry urban art with heritage stitchwork for a unique, modern look. Yarns are sourced from Italian merino, traceability is certified, and production is divided between a small factory in Monasterevin and a “lab” in Amsterdam.
Having changed career, Murphy studied knitted textiles and is completing a technical knitting machine course exploring different types of stitchwork with the aim of eventually producing all her designs in Ireland. Visit her site urbanaran.com Instagram@urbanaran
Diamond mine fields
Jeweller Carol Clarke in Dublin, a respected gemmologist and Ireland’s first and only female member of the Institute of Registered Jewellery Valuers in London, is constantly asked about lab-grown diamonds and has strong views on the subject.
“I believe it takes about 250 kilowatt hours of electricity to grow a one carat diamond in these large factories – that’s the same amount of electricity that could power the average US household for nine full days. How is that ethical?” Ten million diamonds were grown in 2020 and production is only going to increase, she reckons. “We don’t know how long they will last. They may have the same hardness and colour as a natural diamond but how can they have the same atomic structure as one that has taken thousands of years to grow and form in the ground? As so many lab diamonds are being grown every year, the price is going to drop, and they will become worthless in the near future as more factories open up in China and India and pour them out. You need to be careful – I have had customers with items to be valued that they thought were natural diamonds but turned out to be lab-grown and worth a fraction of what they had paid.” Caveat emptor.
Dubliner Simon Phelan, who spent many years finetuning his craft in Ireland and India, established in the 1990s a little gem of a shop in Wexford Street called Djinn committed to ethical jewellery production. His metals are almost 100 per cent recycled, the gemstones come from smaller mines and, as well as his own work, he carries an enticing array of jewellery from other Irish, Scottish, Catalan, Portuguese and Italian makers/designers. His latest Raw Collection, a small production range of bracelets, earrings, rings and pendants, uses minimal cutting and shaping and the highest-quality quartz. Gemstones are cut in artisan workshops in India with whom Phelan has worked closely for 25 years. Visit djinnjewellery.com
"A Stitch in Time" is the name of a crowd-funding project by the Hunt Museum in Limerick to raise €12,500 to restore important heritage items by the trailblazing Irish designer Sybil Connolly, some outfits more than 70 years old. Donations from €2-€125 can be made, many with gifts that include sketches from Connolly's collections. Visit bit.ly/3J4Vjif for more details.
Making shopping personal
For those on a limited budget who need a new outfit for a special occasion – for a wedding or a new job, for example – help is at hand. Kildare Village has expanded its personal shopping service with three new luxurious suites to make the experience more pleasant and enjoyable. Headed by Ciara Halpin, deputy director of personal shopping, stylists on the team so far are Jess Colivet, Sinéad Kelly and Cathy O’Connor. New services include “perfect palette” with expert colour analysis in a 40-minute appointment and “style Saturday”, a pre-booked style masterclass.
To avail of a tailored personal shopping experience lasting about 90 minutes, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Iris Apfel, the 100-year-old style icon, is the latest to collaborate with H&M with a collection that is a riot of colour, pattern, texture and materials.
She is known for her no-holds-barred over-the-top style, and the collection includes glossy acid green and violet jackets, oversize feather tops, dramatic kaftans and a range of baroque jewellery and accessories. On sale in H&M's College Green store and at hm.com from March 31st.