The future of fashion?

Next month, Kilkenny’s National Craft Gallery is showcase work by designers striving to draw a line between fashion and art

Imagine an icy blue shoe made of moulded polyurethane rubber and stainless steel or another fashioned from leather and glass fibre – these are just some of the items in an exciting fashion exhibition due to open in Kilkenny next month. "I wanted to connect major players with young and up and coming makers – we have never shown shoe designers before," says Angela O'Kelly, leading Irish jeweller and craft curator who has put together the show for the forthcoming 40th Kilkenny Arts Festival. Couture: Future Fashion highlights the work of six fashion, shoe and textile designers known for their innovative craft skills and novel approaches to contemporary design.

The exhibitors include Úna Burke, known for her wizardry with sculptural leather and brass, Stephanie Bila’s extraordinary body jewellery and fashion artist Ana Rajcevic who works at the intersection of sculpture and fashion. It is the three shoe designers, however, who dominate the group; the Brazilian Andreia Chaves who has collaborated with Irish silversmith Kevin O’Dwyer, Julia Lundsten of Finsk who has won many awards for her handmade shoes and Marloes ten Bhömer who has produced 3D printed and other innovative footwear.

The 40 pieces in the exhibition examine the sculptural aesthetics of wearable pieces. “Their approach to craft and design is exquisite,” says O’Kelly of the group. “And there is a sense of where contemporary design is at with new materials, new technologies and 3D printing showing that more intelligent design is happening and pushing boundaries.” It will be the first time, for instance, that Andreia Chaves has displayed her shoes in a gallery format. “She is combining her talents with that of silversmith Kevin O’Dwyer and he is applying his craft to a completely different aesthetic,” says O’Kelly.

The exhibition opens on August 9th and will continue until October 16th in the National Craft Gallery. It will run alongside Costume: Behind the Scenes showcasing the undergarments from costumes from four Abbey Theatre productions.

The exhibitors

A Serbian architecture graduate and fashion artist based in London, she works in metal, leather and synthetic polymers bridging the gap between sculpture and fashion. Her award winning sculptural designs – headpieces, armour inspired fashion – have been exhibited in London, Paris, Rome, Trieste, Rotterdam, Berlin and Istanbul. She has also co-produced a fashion film called Encounters, "because I like to showcase an artwork using image, sound, text and movement", shown in Rotterdam and Berlin. Voted one of the 12 most promising artists from the University of the Arts in London by the Independent, her ambition is to keep pushing boundaries.


Ten Bhomer studied product design in Arnhem, Holland before doing a masters degree in footwear at the RCA in London. Her shoes, which amplify and exaggerate the curves of the human foot fusing art and technology in leather and stainless steel, have been described as provocative and otherworldly. "A shoe has to do with identity and fashion, but has to be worn and be structurally sound in motion," she says. "As opposed to a chair it is more about the wearer and identity." She believes that new digital tools may enable small independent makers to experiment and flourish.

Hardly had this London based jewellery student graduated from Central Saint Martins this year when she received a scholarship from Swarovski – the first to do so – for her degree collection. Her ready-to-wear collection was also selected by industry experts as part of the Bright Young Gems initiative and was displayed at the International Jewellery exhibition in Earls Court. Bila works in metal, beech, bentwood, cane, Swarovski and gold plated brass, her pieces inspired by evolution, anatomy and architecture. She is fascinated by how jewellery transforms perceptions of the human body.

JULIA LUNDSTEN Daughter of a Finnish architect and interior designer, Lundsten has carved a name for her footwear under her label Finsk launched in 2004, a year after she graduated from the RCA. Twice winner of the Manolo Blahnik award, she has often been dubbed the Charles Eames of footwear known for her striking wooden wedges. She has collaborated with fashion designers in London and New York and her shoes, in leather with wooden sculptured heels handmade in Brazil, are sold in selected boutiques in London, New York, Tokyo Toronto, Helsinki and Singapore.

A talented Brazilian designer who divides her time between Kinsale and Florence, Chaves is probably the only shoe designer who has collaborated with a silversmith, in this case, the renowned Irish artisan, Kevin O'Dwyer for her remarkable Goldsculpt shoe collection. The work of this São Paolo born designer was already attracting attention before her graduation from the Polimoda school in Florence in 2010. The "invisible" shoes from her first series are already collector's items and her innovative and distinctive visual approach, combined with experimental materials and state of the art technology, make her a name to watch.

From Roscommon, now working in London, Burke is a graduate of Limerick School of Art and Design who interned with Philip Treacy and at Burberry among others before setting up on her own. Drawing from psychological and military sources, her use of leather panelling and brass fittings in belts, corsets, jewellery, handbags and abstract body pieces are distinctive and have attracted an international celebrity following and innumerable awards. She has dressed well known figures such as Daphne Guinness, Rihanna and Lady Gaga and works closely with industry leaders such as Charlotte Stockdale, Nicola Formichetti, Nick Knight, David Bailey and Francois Nars.