Fashion: The look of the Irish
For the next week a range of homegrown talent will be showcased in Arnotts. Enter Orla Kiely, Peter O’Brien and Helen McAlinden, Natalie B Coleman, Niamh O’Neill, Emma Manley, Ale Walsh and more
Above: camel trench coat, €675, Orla Kiely; printed silk scarf, €125, Susannagh Grogan; pleated black dress with collar, €295, Peter O’Brien
Sam wears long Chelsea coat, €249, Remus; scarf €25, Arnotts Collection; cable knit crew neck jumper €135, Fisherman Out of Ireland; cotton twill chinos €99, Magee.
‘We don’t always have to look abroad now to fit gaps in categories,” says Deirdre Devaney, head of womenswear at Arnotts as the store celebrates Irish design talent this week. In the news recently because of its takeover by the Weston family of Brown Thomas, the Henry Street store can count some 20 Irish designers in its portfolio, the largest number of any Dublin store, 14 in womenswear/accessories and five in menswear.
Store stalwarts like Orla Kiely, Peter O’Brien and Helen McAlinden join up and coming newcomers like Natalie B Coleman, Niamh O’Neill and Emma Manley along with accessories from Ale Walsh and the Kinsale Leather Company.
In the menswear area, familiar names such as Magee and Paul Costelloe now include Remus from Belfast, Brent Pope’s shirts and Fisherman Out of Ireland knitwear under the guidance of menswear head Valerie O'Neill. All the designers have been brought together for this fashion shoot in the wilds of Wicklow and many will be in attendance in the store during the week.
“We have an abundance of good Irish designers, numbers which are growing each year though I would love to see more fashion made at home”, says Devaney.
Peter O’Brien’s collection has been one of the success stories which she attributes to his lack of compromise when it comes to standards.
“His products are quite intricate and don’t depend on colour or lots of additional details. They are not high embellishment. It is about the cut and the fabric. We had a record season for 2014 and this season will beat that again,” she says.
Her most important advice to young designers seeking commercial opportunities is to have a firm idea of who their customer is. “It is about what this woman likes, how she likes to dress, what her lifestyle is. You have to get inside the mindset of that consumer and know exactly who you are targeting. That is extremely important”.
Retailers such as Devaney and others commanding substantial buying budgets should be regularly invited to speak to fashion students and give them advice and mentoring, yet surprisingly she has only been asked once, a couple of years ago, to do so.
The clothes here are Irish in their colours, textures and inspiration – earthy tweeds, richly textured knits, but also modern and international, each with their own individual handwriting.
“A huge amount of product is going to the US and Australia from Ireland so we are admired abroad and as international as others. We have quality on our doorstep.”
Photographs: Naomi Gaffey
Styling: Corina Gaffey assisted by Oisin Boyd.
Hair and make-up: Ivey Sullivan, Morgan the Agency