Louise Kennedy leaves Merrion Square for Ballyfin to show new collection
For the designer revisiting Laois hotel brought back memories of school dances there
Aria lavishly embellished cape, €2,500 and Piper Capri trousers, €495 – Louise Kennedy
Liv yellow tulle dress, €895 – Louise Kennedy
Navy and white jacket,€895, Kirsten navy tulle skirt, €495 – Louise Kennedy
Casey silk dress, €1,295 – Louise Kennedy
Loyal fans of Louise Kennedy were treated to a special customer event this month when the designer foreswore her usual location in her Merrion Square HQ to preview her spring/summer collection, choosing instead what has been described as the world’s best hotel, Ballyfin Demesne in Co Laois at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains.
The hotel’s lavishly restored interiors provided a suitably impressive backdrop for her presentation which for summer highlighted both the hot shades of pink, tangerine and yellow of India where she spends so much of her time working with local artisans as well as her own unflagging love affair with navy.
Though the bright sunshine colours and zingy shades are refreshing, not every woman can pull off clashing tones of pink and orange with confidence – particularly in inclement Irish weather. Navy, in contrast, is a safe harbour, practical, good looking in the evening light, flattering for Irish skin and, when paired with white, always elegant.
Ballyfin has a special meaning for Kennedy who went to school nearby at the Brigidine convent in Abbeyleix which was twinned with Ballyfin
Her combination of a long tulle skirt topped with a little navy and white jacket, was classic Louise Kennedy, a new version of her winter ballet skirt and tailored top that looked romantic and feminine. The motifs in many of these pieces were drawn from aspects of Georgian architecture – fanlights, cornicing, railings – along with the influence of Slim Aaron, an American celebrity photographer from the 1950s.
For women looking for something special for a wedding or other big social event, there was much from which to choose and pieces to suit and flatter various silhouettes.
Ballyfin has a special meaning for Kennedy who went to school nearby at the Brigidine convent in Abbeyleix which was twinned with Ballyfin when it was a boys’ boarding school run by the Patrician Brothers. “We had many great debating nights and exciting school dances in these magnificent rooms. If there was a certain excitement as we trundled up the drive in our school bus speculating about our prospective dance partners, it was nothing compared to the sense of awe and history I felt when I visited Ballyfin after its reopening and stepped into a stunning space with the promise of more gorgeous spaces beyond” recalled the designer.
The collection this season focused on separates with many specially-woven fabrics and always with Kennedy’s signature detailing – Swarovski beads and pearls embroidered so as to create texture and shadow.
New and more flamboyant are the longer lengths – the midi and floor-length solid colour dresses, designed for maximum impact, lived up to their glorious location at the lunchtime presentation. Familiar shapes were the off-the-shoulder evening dresses, tunics with detailed borders and shirtdresses designed to be worn over trousers Indian-style.
In the meantime, Kennedy who celebrates 21 years in Merrion Square this year, is working on the new Aer Lingus uniforms due to launch later in the year. “We are taking the uniform in a new and contemporary direction, introducing key new items and colours and hope that the team will be proud to wear it,” she says.
Follow her on Instagram and see what she wears in India, London, New York and Antigua and her portraits of her favourite model, Paddy Paws, the handsome hound.