Free-spirited designs in Katie McGuigan’s Lost Summer

Designs committed in sensual silky shapes and pioneering use of wool

Delphi lace tie dress €1,335, hand knitted Cliffs of Moher sweater made from Irish and virgin wool yarns.

Delphi lace tie dress €1,335, hand knitted Cliffs of Moher sweater made from Irish and virgin wool yarns.

 

One of the stars of this year’s Create in Brown Thomas (opening on Tuesday next July 6th) is London-based Irish designer Katie Ann McGuigan with her new collection, one of her most beautiful and free spirited to date. Called “Lost Summer” it is true to form in its commitment to print and colour, in sensual silky shapes and pioneering use of Irish wool for the first time thanks to sponsorship from Yarn Vibes and Donegal Yarns. “The quality is amazing and our knitters loved using luxury yarns from Ireland”, she says.

Two sweaters – one called Knockbridge in bold geometric coral and cream with a matching skirt, the other a stylish new take on the traditional Aran called the Cliffs of Moher with lace tie dress in a printed silk and cotton – are standout pieces. Her handwork is evident throughout.

“I still cut out the patterns myself and we sew everything up in the studio because we make a conscious effort to source within the UK and Ireland. Our commitment to design extends across the supply chain from sewing, pattern making and shoemaking to textile sourcing and yarns,” McGuigan says. Cropped, close fitting sweater vests and roll necks are created in ethical yarn in a continuation of McGuigan’s work with Wool and the Gang.

This season the work of Belgian photographer Harry Gruyaert and his “Irish Summer” series shot during a tour of the west of Ireland in the early 80s and acclaimed for capturing the changing light of the Irish coast, informed her approach. “My collection explores a longing for the outdoors against a reimagining of the stability and comfort of life indoors”. That translates into puff-sleeved baby-doll styles, A line shapes cinched at the waist, 100 per cent silk dresses, innovative knits and relaxed tailoring. Signature prints this season were inspired by wallpaper and tapestry with a romance and delicacy all of their own.

The singer Loah who appeared recently in one of her autumn/winter dresses – in printed green silk for the Bob Dylan tribute at the American residence in the Phoenix Park sparked a demand for the dress though McGuigan’s sizes only go up to 14, something she may need to address in future collections.

For a small Irish brand, dealing with the pandemic has been a question of survival, but her website was up and running when it happened and online sales have grown. In the meantime, she has also moved into furnishings (born from her upbringing in her family’s company Orior Furniture in Newry) “because the circle of fashion can be quite vicious”, she says wryly, with a line of rugs in tandem with her brother Ciaran along with cushions and face masks in her own prints.

“There are ongoing conversations” about tablecloths and other interior lifestyle items. In the meantime, her reputation continues to grow.

Create at Brown Thomas runs from Tuesday July 6th to August 26th. Its theme this year is Push for Progress and will feature amongst others a dozen new Irish designers who have established businesses out of lockdown.

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