Red alert for Irish fashion
Irish designer Helen Cody has swapped her pale palette for a riot of red, and says it’s given her courage
Helen Cody decision to use red was a bold step. Photograph: Matthew Thompson
It’s the colour of blood, of passion, with the greatest power to attract attention and a starry, red carpet favourite. Red, however, is not the colour immediately associated with fashion designer Helen Cody whose pale, subdued and gentle palette is more familiar in the fairytale wedding or special occasion dresses that she makes for private clients.
More recently, her carpet collaboration with Ceadogán in Wexford was notable for its bold shapes but calm, neutral colours.
“I’ve been afraid of colour and terrified of wearing red – and embracing it has been like facing my fears. Once I started with the textures and layering red on red, and seeing what happened, it gave me courage,” she confesses.
Surrendering to the colour and working with the photographer Matthew Thompson, a master in fine art photography, they have ambitious plans to explore future artistic possibilities with the finished images. To concentrate on one colour alone, however, was a bold step.
The shapes and silhouettes are varied and romantic, the fabrics the luxurious textures with which she has always been associated, though this time in deep, dark shades: silk chiffon and organza, hand-loomed French lace, laser-cut material and tulle. “Twenty-two metres of tulle in one dress – I just kept going,” she says. A pleated skirt involved 12m of chiffon “to play with subtle, architectural movement”.
The effects of these lavish constructions are seven painterly dresses photographed in contrasting light and shade.
“The studio is full of colour now and it is so uplifting to walk into a space full of colour,” she says. So many painstaking hours went into these couture creations, all made by hand, that they are of necessity expensive, but a girl can dream.
When it comes to fashion, the great master of red was Valentino, who said that it was a colour “with guts – deep, strong and dramatic”; his sumptuous scarlet Italian ballgowns became such an expression of his couture house that a Pantone colour is named Valentino Red.
Flamboyant colour has always been associated with visual pleasure; in Matisse’s painting The Red Studio everything is suffused with an overwhelming, powerful red. Red is memorable: the flash of red sole made Louboutin’s shoes famous and, at the recent Grammy Awards, Beyoncé’s red-sequinned gown was a dazzling scene-stealer while Sofia Sanchez stood out in a Dolce & Gabbana medieval, Venetian-style dress in dark red velvet and gold.
One stylish woman who knows how to wear red in a modern way is Amal Clooney; whether photographed out to dinner, out to work, travelling or on holiday, her choice of bright coats (from Paule Ka to Versace), red trouser suits, dresses by Dolce & Gabbana or Akris (paired with nude pumps and oversize shades) is always sure, and she uses accents of reds in accessories equally successfully.
While it would take a bit of daring to wear one of Helen Cody’s red affairs, the effect would certainly quicken the pulse, please the eye and command attention.
The collection will be a highlight of the forthcoming Arc Fashion Show at the RDS on Thursday, March 2nd (in aid of cancer support centres) where Cody will be one of the 26 designers showing their collections on the catwalk in what is being billed as Ireland’s biggest fashion show. Tickets cost €50 and can be purchased by calling 01 830 7333 or visiting arccancersupport.ie/events
- Photographer: Matthew Thompson.
- Model: Laura Kidd.
- Hair: Michael Leong.
- Makeup: Mary Ellen Darby.
- Designer’s assistant: Niamh Hanlon.
- All clothes made to order by Helen Cody. For appointments visit www.helencody.com