Who are the new young Irish designers to look out for?
Dublin and Limerick deliver promising students to the world of fashion
Meghan Hatherell (LSAD) Unexpected
May is the month when student fashion graduates apply the finishing touches to their final-year collections. There are 30 leaving the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) this year, 23 leaving the Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD), with most destined to further their careers or studies abroad.
In NCAD the new Studio+ year between second and third year has attracted 11 students who either go on an Erasmus programme for further study or opt for practical experience in Ireland or abroad. Limerick students have interned with Simone Rocha and McQueen in London, IRO in Paris and even Ellery in Australia, and the college has now installed Gerber digital technical training, vital for improving modern skill sets.
On a recent visit to NCAD, the creativity of the fashion area which encompasses jewellery, textiles and fashion design was impressive. Detailed handwork was evident in many of the collections with widespread use of laser cutting, embroidery, pleating, printing and other elaborate time-consuming craft techniques.
According to the head of fashion Anne Melinn in Limerick, upcycling and sustainability “are huge this year. Many students are reclaiming old garments and reusing them. A lot are using natural dyes and aim for zero waste in pattern cutting,” she says. The college now has two courses, Fashion Design established over 40 years ago and the newer BA Fashion, Knitwear & Textiles course now in its third year with 11 graduating.
Inspiration comes from family, culture and heritage; in NCAD, from boxing and fishing to sustainable architecture and urban environments, in LSAD, 1920s movies, swing dancing and dreams were diverse starting points. Multicultural backgrounds are particularly notable; in NCAD Dora Newman and Elizabeth Omowumi mixed elements of African and European culture from their common Nigerian backgrounds to create something new and vibrant, while Nicolette Mai Xunanova’s handwoven interlaced jackets with pockets for plants made its own statement about sustainability. In Limerick, students hail from the Philippines, Holland, South Africa, France, China – last year there were three from Canada.
Many come up with unusual pieces: in NCAD Sinead Power who plays ladies’ football and camogie in the GAA used elements of sportswear with subtle details, as did Ciara Palmer whose grandfather was a garda and who used his 1970s raincoat as a guide to make something entirely new. In LSAD international students “bring a whole new ethos and these different approaches are really exciting” says Melinn.
According to Angela O'Kelly head of fashion design at NCAD, the work of the graduates of 2019 “reflects our changing cultural environment, how we are embracing local, national and global cultural identities”.
On Monday May 27th, one lucky student will win the Brown Thomas NCAD Young Designer of the Year Award, a cash prize, showcase of work at Create and a mentorship programme with Brown Thomas directors. BT have also sponsored the BA Fashion Design Film in Limerick with additional support from LEO Limerick. Another NCAD student Una King won this year’s River Island Bursary.