Ten years of Create: A celebration of spectacular Irish design

Sorcha O’Raghallaigh, Faye Dinsmore and Richard Quinn among the exhibiting stars

Arm jewellery by Sorcha O’Rallaghaigh for this year’s Create

Arm jewellery by Sorcha O’Rallaghaigh for this year’s Create

 

A 3m-high mannequin in a blood-red dress and an embellished mask stopped passers-by in their tracks on Oxford Street, London, some years ago – it was the work of Sorcha O’Raghallaigh from Birr, Co Offaly, the first Irish designer to have an entire window devoted to her work in Selfridges. Customised pieces by her have been worn by Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Madonna and Kate Moss. 

Next week O’Raghallaigh will be one of the stars of an event to mark the 10th anniversary of Create, Brown Thomas’s annual celebration of Irish fashion. On show will be a number of her intricate, hand-crafted jewelled showpieces, heightened expressions of her romantic aesthetic and less everyday than her affordable Signs of the Zodiac pendants and “cosmic star” stackable rings on her website. These pieces are decorative armour for fairy-tale occasions or imagined futures. They include densely textured embroidered bodices, their motifs inspired by Chagall’s landscapes of memory and arm bracelets decorated with pearls, crystals and black ribbons. 

Hand-embellished and jewelled bodice with motifs inspired by Chagall’s landscape of memory by Sorcha O’Rahallaigh for Create 2020
Hand-embellished and jewelled bodice with motifs inspired by Chagall’s landscape of memory by Sorcha O’Rahallaigh for Create 2020
Davina Lynch headpiece at Create 2016
Davina Lynch headpiece at Create 2016
JW Anderson at the first Create, 2010
JW Anderson at the first Create, 2010
Hand-knits by Faye Dinsmore at Create 2018
Hand-knits by Faye Dinsmore at Create 2018
Katie Ann McGuigan at Create 2019
Katie Ann McGuigan at Create 2019

Crystal and pearl embroidery and floral prints mark the flamboyant creations of London-based fashion designer Richard Quinn, who is returning to Create after his first appearance two years ago. Knitters Lucy Nagle and Faye Dinsmore join newcomers Grey & Ginger with their art T-shirts and sweaters. Also there will be yoga wear brand Leyo from Galway; Anna Guerin’s new tailored blazers and reimagined trench coats; My Name Is Ted handbags; Fiadh’s handwoven scarves; and Dana Project jewellery. 

Thirty exhibitors

Returning this year are milliners Leonora Ferguson and Michelle Kearns, and jewellers Bláithín Ennis and Helena Malone. There will be a showcase of work from past winners of the Brown Thomas bursary prize and a special installation from the artist and sculptor Sasha Sykes, known for her signature foraged materials in hand-casted resin, in a varied line-up of more than 30 exhibitors.

For emerging young Irish designers such as Katie Ann McGuigan, who is back again with a capsule collection after her Create debut last year, the event drove home a welcome sense of support. First-hand experience of meeting customers face to face “really helped me design my next (autumn-winter) collection, which has been restyled and rejigged so that the emphasis is on hand-knits, silk dresses and scarves. It was a rewarding experience and I don’t know of any other luxury store helping designers at this level and giving them their first stepping-stone,” says the designer, who is also making masks using any left-over material. 

Mariad Whisker at Create 2015
Mariad Whisker at Create 2015
From a Sybil Connolly retrospective at Create 2013
From a Sybil Connolly retrospective at Create 2013
Richard Quinn with two of his outfits at Create 2018
Richard Quinn with two of his outfits at Create 2018
A leather bodice by Una Burke from Create 2016
A leather bodice by Una Burke from Create 2016
Signature stripes from Richard Malone at Create 2016
Signature stripes from Richard Malone at Create 2016
Helen Cody collaboration at Create 2014
Helen Cody collaboration at Create 2014

For fashion director Shelly Corkery, “opening the door” to Irish talent has been a major personal commitment for the past decade, starting at a time when Ireland was just coming out of recession. “Why was I not hearing from young designers? Was Brown Thomas too daunting for them? So I thought, let’s welcome them. Since then [Create] has taken on a life of its own and gets better and better and is so diverse – people come with knitwear, jewellery, accessories, interiors”, she says. She acknowledges the support of Eddie Shanahan of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland. “The day-to-day learning and understanding of retail and that contact with customers is what designers get from Create. And for me the sense of discovery and finding new talent is a real treat”.

Create runs on the second floor of Brown Thomas, from September 22nd for four weeks. brownthomas.com

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