Fashion class of 2017 look to their grandparents for inspiration

This year’s fashion graduates are drawing from their family histories and memories

Rachel Blanckensee’s “gender neutral” and mathematical approach to clothes made her a River Island bursary finalist. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid

Rachel Blanckensee’s “gender neutral” and mathematical approach to clothes made her a River Island bursary finalist. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid

 

There’s always something special about fashion graduate shows – conventionally wild and wayward, the last-chance saloon to showcase ingenuity, creativity and skill before the big bad world of the industry beckons. In recent years, if you’d asked graduates what inspires them. you’d get a host of replies, with designers such as Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood regularly cited. It’s very different now.

Laoise Carey reappropriates vintage fabrics and textiles from her aunt’s farm. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid
Laoise Carey reappropriates vintage fabrics and textiles from her aunt’s farm. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid

This year’s NCAD graduates are notable not just for their craftsmanship and creating their own unique fabrics, but also for looking to their own heritage and culture – and in particular their grandparents – for sources of guidance. Maybe Simone Rocha started the trend of looking inwards rather than to international fashion icons when she paid tribute to her mixed heritage and Irish and Chinese grandmothers as starting points for her early collections.

Sive Mischka Rooney’s collection was driven by childhood memories. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid
Sive Mischka Rooney’s collection was driven by childhood memories. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid

Among the NCAD group, Colin Burke’s crocheted daffodil hats and sandals are a tribute to his close bond with his Galway grandmother and her love of daffodils, while Shianne Plunkett’s collection “Allure of the Ideal” was inspired by images from her grandparents’ wedding album.

Colin Burke’s crocheted daffodil hats and sandals are a tribute to his close bond with his Galway grandmother. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid
Colin Burke’s crocheted daffodil hats and sandals are a tribute to his close bond with his Galway grandmother. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid

Drag artist

And so it continues. Ellie Connolly’s romantic dress was based on her parents’ relationship with their restaurant, founded by her grandparents. Jennifer Reid’s “Poison Ivy” collection and that of Sive Mischka Rooney were both driven by childhood memories. Christopher Cannon’s collection is personal, too, but based around his experience as a drag artist. The trend has extended to LSAD as well, where Gregor Pituch’s recollections of going to church with his grandmother have already informed his third year collection.

Ellie Connolly’s romantic dress was based on her parents’ relationship with their restaurant, founded by her grandparents. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid
Ellie Connolly’s romantic dress was based on her parents’ relationship with their restaurant, founded by her grandparents. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid

“They are very interested in the work and power of the hand,” says Angela O’Kelly, head of design at NCAD. “It’s a bit of a contradiction in a way because the design process is quick but making takes longer.”

She has also initiated collaborations between fashion, textiles and jewellery students who work together in teams making new work. “It’s a different process and we are hoping it will feed into work in this year”, she says.

But back to the class of 2017 and the 18 fledgling talents who will take wing in June. Some have already won awards. Rachel Blanckensee’s “gender neutral” and mathematical approach to clothes made her a River Island bursary finalist and semi-finalist in both UCD Young Designer of the Year and Dublin Fashion Festival Young Designer of the Year. Caoimhe Hill is this year’s winner of the River Island internship and bursary and will start her apprenticeship later this year.

Caoimhe Hill is this year’s winner of the River Island internship and bursary. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid
Caoimhe Hill is this year’s winner of the River Island internship and bursary. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid

JJ Nolan was the winner of the visual merchandising collaboration between the Simon Community and NCAD.

JJ Nolan was the winner of the visual merchandising collaboration between the Simon Community and NCAD. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid
JJ Nolan was the winner of the visual merchandising collaboration between the Simon Community and NCAD. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid

West of Ireland

Elsewhere, Sheena Garvey draws on the west of Ireland for her combats and Aran jerseys, Louise Kavanagh’s slogan dresses are a visual response to “the sickening culture of consumerism”, Anya Maye twins Croatian dress with clubbing gear, and Danielle McGregor’s menswear challenges changing forms of masculinity.

Louise Kavanagh’s slogan dresses are a visual response to “the sickening culture of consumerism”. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid
Louise Kavanagh’s slogan dresses are a visual response to “the sickening culture of consumerism”. Photograph: Dean Ryan McDaid

But however rich the student sources, the handwork and fabric manipulation stand out, a testament to traditional female virtuosity and domestic skills, be it in crochet, embroidery, leatherwork, cording, macramé, beading, lacing, pleating, felting, knotting, knitting and even moulding liquid latex.

In a departure from the usual format of a catwalk presentation, this year’s show on Tuesday May 23rd takes a more innovative approach. The collections, already videoed in different locations around Dublin, will be screened alongside static installations and the students’ look books and portfolios.

“Catwalk shows have no interaction, so this will be hugely immersive and people will be able to feel, touch and interact with the work. It will be so much more than a fashion show,” promises O’Kelly.

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