Fashion fights on: How Irish designers are dealing with lockdown
From hairbands to apps, Irish designers are responding to challenges posed by Covid-19
Bernie Murphy is a textile artist and fashion designer based in Donegal who works with Irish tweed. “With many orders cancelled I have an abundance of tweed in my studio and when a customer requested a bespoke headband as the traditional style didn’t suit her double crown, one thing led to another and now I am producing and selling the Donegal slip-knot tweed hairband all over Ireland,” she says. It’s a thicker, flexible band made with wiring and it also serves the purpose of covering up any roots or recent hair growth. The whole range comes in different tweeds, each costing €20 with €2 from each sale donated to Childline. In addition, a nominated front-line worker also receives a hairband in recognition of their work. Visit berniemurphy.com.
When she moved to New York two years ago to gain experience in the fashion industry, talented NCAD graduate Caoimhe Hill was lucky enough to work with well-known brands Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s The Row and the jewellery company Limnia. However, she became increasingly aware of the mass consumption and waste in the industry and vast amounts of little-used clothing, along with the overflow from charity shops, ending up in landfill. That inspired her to create a piece of work from these garments and, mingling with other young people from all over the world, she invited them to give her their unwanted garments from which she could fashion hand-crocheted patchwork jackets. Pieces originated from Austin, Texas; Los Angeles; Chile; Colombia; Hong Kong; Mexico; Austria; and Ireland. “People are picking up crafts, mending clothing and rediscovering new pieces from their wardrobes and I hope that once this pandemic passes that we can maintain this sense of resourcefulness and creativity with our clothes”, she says. Visit caoimhehill.com.
On the hunt for fashion
The Hunt Museum in Limerick has taken the initiative of launching virtual tours of their main exhibition feature, caller Entwined in the Fabric, highlighting the role of the costume designer, an online complement to Best Costumes Goes To. . . a hugely popular exhibition co-created with the Irish Costume Archive Project (ICAP) which had to close as a result of coronavirus. Of interest to fashion designers and film buffs alike, some 32 vivid images demonstrate the intricate details of costumes from films and television shows such as The Favourite, The Quiet Man, Braveheart, Vikings and more and are accompanied with background stories and audio clips narrated by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, costume designer and ICAP co-founder, describing how costume creates character. “Our doors may be shut, but our website is an extension of our historic building and allows us to engage with people who might never have engaged with us before,” says museum director Jill Cousins. For further information on a variety of other activities related to the exhibition, visit huntmuseum.com.
Design a knit
Paula Marron of Castanea cashmere knit has launched a knitwear competition in partnership with her stockists open to aspiring designers grounded at home. Those interested need to design a piece of knitwear – a woman’s sweater, cardigan or hoodie – and don’t need to be good at drawing as, according to Marron, “We can see potential from the simplest to the most complex of sketches and we will make up the winning design in 100 per cent cashmere for you and a selected friend.” The finished item will be photographed on a model by Doreen Kilfeather and will be sold in conjunction with her stockists, Havana, Kalu, Samui and Les Jumelles, and the profits from any piece sold will be donated to charity. “We will also provide information on things to consider when designing a piece of knitwear such as different techniques.” To enter, follow@castanea_official, sign up to the newsletter on castanea.ie for design tips and send entries to her on Instagram or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Irish PPE
One of Edmund McNulty’s best-selling knitwear items is a snood in different colours and textures that can be used instead of a scarf. He has now collaborated with Frewen & Aylward to create an alternative to a face mask that is a supersoft snood that can be pulled up over the mouth and nose for protection. They have been designed to look less like a balaclava and more of a fashion item and the mixture of wool, alpaca and silk gives them a super luxury handle with 5 per cent elastane ensuring they stay over your mouth and nose and remain breathable. They come in eight colourways, can be washed at 30 degrees, retail at €99 and can be ordered online at frewenmenswear.ie.
New fashion app
It was meant to have a summer launch but has now been brought forward to help Irish retailers suffering from closure and the effects of coronavirus. Bezzu is a new free mobile Irish fashion app that can be downloaded on Android and iOS devices that its founders claim will “revolutionise” retail for small independent businesses, helping them to trade online while their physical stores are closed. Founded by Lana Dunbar Gregan of Dress Up Market and business partner Greg Kavanagh, the app enables fashion and lifestyle retailers without any existing online presence or ecommerce function to connect with and sell to customers online. Fewer than 20 per cent of Irish retailers sell online, so the Bezzu creators hope that providing this service will enable retailers to survive during these difficult times. So far, more than 400 Irish retailers have signed up, with more than 6,000 products for purchase including the Design Centre, Gallery 9 in Naas, Juju in Greystones, Les Jumelles in Galway and Triona Designs in Donegal. To downloads the app, visit Playstore for Android or Apple Store for iOS.
Decade a day
Paris-based Irish singer and fashion designer Liv Monaghan, in lockdown with all her gigs cancelled in the French capital, has taken up a Decade a Day challenge on Instagram, posting images of herself in periods from the 1920s using her own wardrobe and her imagination. Founder of the Alto Figaro online boutique selling vintage items for men and women, Monaghan has an impressive store from which to draw and she is also posting alongside some of the illustrations from the Decade a Day challenge by Athonin Guillerm, a friend of hers who is an embroidery designer at Dior outlining period details of the decades.
A brush with fashion
Painterly brushstrokes are all over Joanne Hynes’s latest collection (online at dunnesstores.com), her boldest and brashest to date with statement names that carry their own messages. Take her Today I’ll be Not Nautical suit, for instance, with its striking blue, black and white graphic print and wide-leg trousers, the swirling colours in Today I’ll be the Art Girl dress, and another called All Over the Place. Typically tongue in check, her imaginative and expressive use of colour and texture – no room for black – might uplift the spirits in this downturn. Other pieces like the On My Bike knit or the Today I’ll be Saving the Date dresses add to the mix as well as the Between a Rock and a Hard Place check parka. Prices range from €100 for trousers and €90 for knits up to €250 for her Tiger Lady wool rug, though we love the Butter Wouldn’t Melt knit, which costs €90. Visit dunnesstores.com. (Deliveries are taking up to eight days.)
Irish linen masks
Linen’s antibacterial qualities make it a perfect textile for travel masks, says Sonia Reynolds of Stable, currently closed in the Westbury Mall, but selling online. The shop, which specialises in Irish textiles, has just launched a range of linen masks in different colours for €20 apiece. Made from 10 per cent Irish linen in whatever colours or patterns, such as pinstripe, that can be sourced, the masks can be washed and reused, so are sustainable and practical. Each mask – in which the nose piece is always in a different colour – comes in a little pouch with a GNY (give your neighbour) offer which means if you buy one and put in the code, you can get one free for a neighbour. “We are producing them as fast as we can,” says Reynolds, who adds that demand for other Irish linen products such as handkerchiefs is also rising. Visit stableofireland.com.
Not to be outdone by the present restrictions, Marian Gale is already planning her future strategy when it comes to her collection of debs’ dresses, black tie, mother-of-the-bride/groom and wedding dresses, special attire for all those celebratory events now on hold. “As soon as I get the go ahead to open [her shop in Donnybrook], I am only going to do so on an appointment-only basis,” she says. “My shop is large, safe and a private place to shop and appointments can be made now via our website and this private-distancing method will work very well in my salon. We will dress up again,”