Fashion: New generation of Northern Irish style
Northern Ireland has produced many influential names in fashion and design. Here are six of the new generation of northerners making a name for themselves in the business of fashion
Others, like Patrick Scallon, head of communications at Dries van Noten, his brother Murray, who designs for Zegna, and fashion stylist Alastair McKimm, the influential editor of I-D magazine, are making their mark abroad.
Here we profile six Northern Irish people making significant contributions in different ways to the business of fashion.
Phoebe Tan (16), model An Irish schools’ high jump champion, Phoebe Tan is now another kind of teenage high-flyer with a promising modelling career in the ascendant.
“She’s not just a good model; she has the face, the height, as well as being an amazing athlete. She is extremely talented,” says Rebecca Morgan of Morgan the Agency.
One of a family of seven, Tan started modelling at 14, following in her sister Naoise’s footsteps, and is carrying on a family tradition as her mother was also a model and “is really encouraging and understands what it entails”, she says.
Naoise is now studying law at Oxford. Tan plans to keep on modelling while she can, though she is considering studying sports science after her A levels.
What she loves about modelling is “meeting new people and getting dressed up and made up and being with a lot of girls that you get along with”.
She has appeared in many catwalk shows in the north, has shot for Thread magazine, Irish Tatler and Image and modelled for Penneys last year. Johnny Evans (19), fashion student A flamboyant dresser and a foundation student at Central St Martins in London, Evans was one of the students selected to design an outfit capturing “The Essence of the Minions”, a fashion collaboration between Universal Studios and CSM to promote the 3D animation movie launching in June.
Evans, who was born in Derry, comes from an artistic background – his mother is a painter and his brother is studying communication design in New York. He has lived around the world, having moved with his family to Italy, India and later Germany and Singapore, “so it opened my mind to other cultures and religions”, he says.
His playful, fun loving personality is reflected as much in his designs as in his own gear – black feathers, false eyelashes and zany jewellery are par for the course when he dresses up for an event. “I take a lot of inspiration from clubbing and drag queens”, he says, adding that a lot of people find him intimidating initially, “but I don’t take myself too seriously and I have a lot of ideas and my greatest challenge will be to realise them in 3D.” Mario Sierra, Mourne Textiles Nestling in the foothills of the Mourne mountains on the edge of Carlingford Lough, Mourne Textiles lies between sea and mountains and is a constant source of inspiration for weaver Mario Sierra, whose mother and grandmother were also weavers. “I have woven since I was a child,” he says.
Having studied textiles and fine arts in Winchester, he wanted to travel and ended up as part of a team making art documentaries. The family business, however, “went into hibernation” in the 1980s. He has now revived it and is promoting the beautiful scarves and textiles woven on “temperamental” old Hattersley looms. Mourne’s biggest customer is Margaret Howell and the company supplies her with cushions, coasters, rugs and throws “and our orders are getting bigger and bigger”, he says.
Mourne now employs four full time apprentices and two of the original weavers who worked with his grandmother, who wove for Sybil Connolly “and the best part is learning from those who have been in the industry for so long”.
Chris Tyndall, Loft Trading The Belfast-based Lurgan native is a graphic designer and founder of Loft Trading, a collection of accessories for men, handmade in Belfast from Irish linen, Donegal and Shetland wool and Madras cotton.
“I am flying the Irish flag for locally made goods, a small market that is big worldwide,” he says. The neckties, scarves, bandanas and pocket squares named after Belfast streets highlight the beauty of the textiles and add an extra splash of colour to an outfit.
“My style is free and easy” says the designer, a sharp dresser himself, who also operates a design studio called Collaborate.
Already his ties and scarves are in demand as gifts by Belfast City Council, which has presented them to visiting dignitaries such as the mayors of New York, Boston and Dublin, and Joseph Kennedy. Tyndall is sourcing old French linen from the 1920s for his next collection.
In Dublin, his ties can be found in Indigo & Cloth in East Essex Street. See loft-trading.com.
Ruth Spence, Envoy Boutique Tucked behind City Hall, this small boutique is a haven for discerning fashion mavens, being a mixture of high-end international brands and Spence’s special finds from all over the world, notably Japan.
Buying trips take the Belfast native, who studied English language and literature and ended up teaching in Tokyo, to New York, Paris, Milan, Japan and Lebanon.
Cult Japanese clothing brands such as Toujours and Orslow sit alongside choice pieces from Dries van Noten, Marni and Celine.
Spence is the only stockist in Ireland of the much sought after, spacious, lightweight leather Mansur Gavriel bags from France.
If the “distressed” shoes from Paul Harnden (who also makes clothes and furniture) don’t catch your eye, the bracelets by Maria Rudman, fashioned in reindeer hide embossed with silver and pewter and made in Lapland, will tempt, as will the bold jewellery by Lebanese designer Rosa Maria. Paul Craig, The Bureau menswear You need to be up to speed on cult menswear brands visiting this impressive emporium in a former mill, now a creative hub for architects, ceramic designers and small brewers in the George Best area of Belfast.
Craig, in business with partner Michael Hamilton for more than 20 years, is a successful merchant who confesses that clothes have been a big part of his life since childhood “and not just fashion but the product”.
Eighty per cent of his business is online, with customers all over the world, and he has onsite photography and research facilities. The fabrics are of exceptional quality, from short loom Japanese cottons and Irish linen, to the cordovan leathers from a Californian shoe brand. Many items specially made for The Bureau.
Limited production specialist brands that he stocks are made in Japan, the UK, France and the US, many based on functional workwear.
Craig is currently expanding a range of shirts which he designs himself and has made up in Derry, with fabrics and buttons imported from Japan.