Fast fashion has come for Ireland, but we can resist its temptations

Spend It Better: Irish labels and tailors are breathing life into our own clothes

Actor Patrick Dempsey wearing a coat from Inis Meáin Knitwear

Actor Patrick Dempsey wearing a coat from Inis Meáin Knitwear

 

A friend bumped into a famous Irish designer a few years ago and had a fangirl moment where she told him what an inspiration he’d been when she was studying fashion. Had she gone on to be a fashion designer, he asked? She had not. Well, he said with heartfelt despair, she dodged a bullet. Since her student days the fast fashion machine had mangled the local industry and it was no longer viable to make clothes in Ireland. 

The way we work has changed, and workwear no longer means trouser suits. As someone who’s been working from home for nearly two decades, the kinds of clothes that are still made in remote parts of Ireland are where my heart and purse strings tend to go. Not often, because these are not low-cost purchases. But if I’m buying new, I’m buying local.

The Inis Meáin factory is sending jumpers made on the least-touristy Aran island to high-end shops around the world. The Fisherman out of Ireland label is putting the gorgeous into geansaí in Kilcar in Co Donegal. Their video of the lights going on at the factory and the machines whirring and spinning the dyed wool into yarn ending in a finished jumper would gladden your heart. My Liadain Aiken hat, from the talented Cork-based designer, has been getting compliments. And I’ve just designed my own “Made for You” jumper online from her colour palette. Hello grass, lichen, wild rose and carnival yellow. Make your own at liadainaiken.com.  

These are clothes that you take care of. And in MyWaste.ie Reuse Month, there’s a reminder of the role of tailors who are still making or remaking clothes in Ireland. They can bring an outdated, damaged or tired garment back to life.

I’ve unearthed one of my mum’s jackets from the 1960s to bring to Roisin Boyce Cantwell at Kenchiku on Ardee Street in the Liberties in Dublin (kenchiku.ie), where the student housing and office developments are rising up to meet the old building where she has kept the lights on for more than a decade. Over in Phibsborough, Kate Sliva of Kate’s Atelier (kateslivadesign.blogspot.com) provides an alterations, repair and design service. The Zip Yard (thezipyard.ie), a franchise started 11 years ago, has shops in Ireland and Britain. 

Reuse Month is stretching into November and there are two great online offerings for workshops. Joanne Butler from Ourganic Gardens is talking wormeries and food waste composting on October 28th, and Aoife Munn will have three craft projects: making soap, wax wraps and biodegradable pots on November 2nd. Creativity rather than consumption is where we can find so much joy.

Catherine Cleary is co-founder of Pocket Forests

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