Irish style is in safe hands – meet this year’s fashion graduates

The National College of Art and Design class of 2018 are an impressive bunch

‘This generation is incredibly nostalgic and their collections are subtle and sophisticated,” comments Linda Byrne, course tutor in NCAD on this year’s fashion graduates.

“It’s all about memories and personal starting points. Themes from personal memories make much stronger collections. We encourage them not to use the internet but to rely on their own primary sources.

“With their own drawings or research they are owning [the collection] and making it more creative.”

There are 15 graduates this year and according to Angela O’Kelly, NCAD’s head of fashion, students are looking to their own heritage, whether Irish or multicultural, with many focusing on responsible design and sustainable ways of working.

Traditional techniques such as felting, embroidery, print and knitwear play a major part in much of the student work.

“Sustainability is starting to build momentum. There is also a resurgence of interest in tailoring and tailoring finishes,” says O’Kelly, who was responsible for introducing the successful innovation last year of replacing the traditional catwalk show with a video and still-life presentation.

That morning there had been a discussion between students and tutors on their first clothing memories, mostly to do with the experience of dressing up in their mothers’ clothes. “It was how something felt rather than how it looked, so touch and feel was so important and may explain why the craft element is still pushing through,” says Byrne.

Grandparents are a strong focus. Rachael Begley from Carlingford in Co Louth and Susan Rogers from Belfast drew on religious and political themes relating to their grandparents, while Ciara Masterson from Dublin, who won this year’s River Island award with her reversible coats, used digital prints taken from the ground around her grandparents’ abandoned house in west Cork.

India McHugh called her collection, with its jewelled and lace embellished knits, “Pieces of Ann” after her grandmother.

Others in the group drew on their different backgrounds. Alexandra Satala from Poland used lace and pleating, elements of traditional Polish dress, in innovative ways; Ala Sinkevich from Ukraine took her cue from “objects within objects” such as nesting dolls which she explained were originally Japanese not Russian; while Siranee Caulfield Sriklad of Galway, whose father is a Thai monk and whose mother is Irish, illustrated cleverly what she calls her “identity confusion” using tufting techniques to mesh Thai silk with Irish wool on tweed.

Craftsmanship was evident everywhere. Wicklow student Sarah Heraughty's homage to nature referenced Derek Mahon's poem A Disused Shed in Co Wexford; Róisín Dockry of Galway replicated the concave shapes of a Galway's hooker hull and its sails for coats and billowing red silk skirts, while the maritime heritage of her native Howth helped Daryl O'Dea create skirts with elaborate quilted and stretched wooden detailing.

The way kids wear tracksuits was a starting point for Jordan Hannon in which colour and elastication were integral, while Dubliner Colton McGuirk studied 18th-century dress and macaronis to create garments exploring sexual and gender fluidity in a flamboyant, romantic way.

One of the most extraordinary pieces was a skirt by Megan Campion from Dublin whose homage to nature saw her working with Portuguese cork and flowers from her garden sandwiched between organza and latex.

Amy Dineen’s year spent in America stimulated an interest in 19th-century anti-Irish attitudes and filmy images of “No Irish need apply” notices were subtly incorporated into sleeves.

For Niamh Flynn, nine months in Madagascar on a community development programme was similarly transformative.

Her dresses decorated with stitching, a skill at which Madagascans are so adept, were belted at the waist with wood vacuum-moulded from cherrywood veneer. She won this year’s Student Designer of the Year at the Golden Egg Awards in Galway.

NCAD Degree Show, June 8th-17th, sponsored by Doyle Collection, Brown Thomas, Toni & Guy and Makeup Forever. Shelly Corkery will announce the winner of the Designer to Watch Award on Monday, May 28th. The winner will receive €4,000, showcase their work at Create in July and join a mentorship programme in BTs