Jen Nollaig: Ireland’s most Christmassy woman is back
The designer has reached peak glitter with her new colection – Advent Garde
Apex Poinsetta - we had poinsettas on either side of the fireplace at Christmas so this is my ode to them - frames have glitter fairy wings and fake flowers. I pulled stems from the flowers and replaced them witj gold snowflake decorations. Photograph: Edward Keegan
“I was born in the 80s, so I feel I was never exposed to a classy side of Christmas. Foil fans hung from the roof, tinsel lined the walls and there were glitter stars and baubles in every imaginable shade. I think my appreciation of kitsch peaked then and I suppose I have been circling back to that ever since” explains Jenny Wilson aka Jen Nollaig, self-styled Christmas purist.
When it comes to festive overload, no one does it better or with more aplomb. Our feature on her first appeared in this magazine in December two years ago and went viral. The response “gives me a great source of validation” , she says and her second collection “The 25 Shades of Christmas” gained fans all over the world. “I honestly lost count at about 20 countries in which it was shared online,” she says. “I was googling translating articles in Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, Portuguese ...”
She now has clients in the USA, UK as well as Ireland working with them in a collaborative process. A headpiece and matching eyewear she created for a client in New York for the Afropunk Brooklyn festival also went viral and was featured in WWD and Teen Vogue’s “31 Most Stylish People at Afropunk” list.
A graduate of Limerick School of Art who interned with Joanne Hynes, Wilson left a corporate career in London to return to Ireland. Central to her work is upcycling old garments and accessories which she finds in charity shops or online and then customises with repurposed Christmas decorations.
“I generally group a number of decorations that excite me in terms of colour or shape and the rest just happens from going with the flow of deconstructing and reconstructing them”, she says.
Her new collection is about trying to encapsulate and celebrate Christmas nostalgia featuring customized bags, shoes and shades. In her signature madcap way, for one item called Bauble Collective, she repurposed an old mohair jumper her mother knitted for herself in the 1980s “it was so wrong, it was right” she smiles. In another headpiece, she reused a porcelain angel in a green velvet dress with gold wings from her grandmother which she admired throughout her childhood.
Her take on the angel was to spray paint the frames of a pair of deconstructed visor shades and cover them with filigree pieces from an old decoration and then adding miniature trees with glitter foil stars. New this season is a charity shop coat emblazoned with more than one hundred strings of tinsel while her Candy Cane Mane has a forest of candy cane and satin baubles again from the 1980s sourced on eBay with frames decorated with pipe cleaners and glitter balls. Her philosophy has always been to leave a little sparkle wherever you go. Shrinking violets should stay well clear.
Photgraphs by Edward Keegan. Follow her on Instagram: Jen_Nollaig