The greening of the wear: Irish design that is worth parading

From Chupi to Sian Jacobs, Irish designers are gaining confidence and global fans

Thursday is St Patrick’s Day and with it comes the traditional “wearing of the green”. The last five years have seen an explosion of talent in Irish design, highlighted in 2015 by the team behind the Year of Irish Design.

What does it mean to be an Irish designer now? Chupi is an Irish jewellery designer with a growing international reputation. “I think it’s a really interesting time for Irish design,” she says. “As a nation we are moving away from shamrocks and more towards beautiful pieces made with love. We recently showed in the Saatchi Gallery and the response was phenomenal. The fact that our products were made in Ireland enhanced their appeal rather than defined it.”

I stumbled across Bonagrew at a wedding fair last week, but that company's beautiful Irish linen can be worn on any occasion. This six-month-old enterprise, which is based in Wicklow, creates ties and bow-ties from high-quality Irish linen and tweed. "Our design approach is rooted in quality and longevity," the company says. "This is why we started Bonagrew, to create life-long objects to love and wear well."

An evolving style

Susannagh Grogan has worked and designed around the world. She finds “Irish style eclectic and constantly evolving”. Her accessories have international influences, and her “strong ties to countryside roots have fused with influences from travels abroad”. Grogan thinks “Irishness is pride in our heritage, a fantastic sense of humour, an openness and a resilience”.

Danielle Romeril started her designer life in Limerick School of Art and Design, but her clothes are now appreciated all over the world and have been worn by the likes of FKA Twigs and admired by Vogue. Romeril was awarded NewGen sponsorship by the British Fashion Council and has been supported by Topshop in more than one collection.

Vivien Walsh is a jewellery designer based in Monsktown. She has been making jewellery for her customers there since 2008. She describes the Irish as “independent soul-searchers with a desire to achieve, explore and integrate.” Walsh was involved in the Irish Year of Design. “It’s wonderful to see so much creative talent on our small island and to be a part of the growing force that is Irish design,” she says.

Sian Jacobs, who is based in Dublin, works directly with a small team in Nepal to create cashmere pieces for the Irish market. Her business advocates social responsibility, craftsmanship and quality. She tells us that the Irish "have a special place in their hearts for cosy knits" and puts this down to the weather. She loves that the "Irish are not afraid to wear colour and adore embellishment, opulent fabrics and glamour".

Jennifer Rothwell’s spring-summer 2016 collection is a beautiful and positive commemoration of Ireland’s history and the 1916 Rising that includes the architecture of the GPO and the Hibernia statue. She says Irish style has come a long way and that “we have extremely creative, talented fashion designers in Ireland that offer an array of choice” and adds that “we need major government support to keep the talent here and to create future employment in the design industry”.

Amanda Brady of Juno James Jewellery crochets wires to enclose specially chosen stones from the Irish coast. “In recent years there has been increased recognition of contemporary craft and authentic products in Irish design,” she says. “People are interested in the unique nature of handmade things and the story behind them. It feels like a great time to be part of this emerging wave.”

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