Irish designers share the limelight with the people making the clothes

Deirdre McQuillan: Dublin studio offering employment and training provides manufacturing services to high-end Irish designers

When Heidi Higgins delivers her winter collection to Arnotts this week, it will have been made within walking distance of the store. For the first time, three independent designers, members of the Council of Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD) – who staged their second digital show this week – are collaborating with Irish social enterprise We Make Good in a pilot programme to produce high quality garments.

“Designers get the limelight, but not those who make the clothes,” says Higgins, one of the three who include Caoimhe Murphy and Melissa Steele of Loom Irish Linen. “It saves me so much – on time, on shipping, on couriers and it’s great to see the seamstresses and work with them.”

The Dublin based studio will provide local, ethical manufacturing services for Irish designers while also giving those from marginalised backgrounds a chance to thrive through skills training and employment. It is overseen by Sarah Verdon, who spent more than 15 years working in production and sales, including with fashion designers John and Simone Rocha.

“Lasting quality and local manufacture are associated with added value, minimum waste and lower carbon footprint by an ever increasing number of eco-conscious customers,” says Eddie Shanahan, chair of CIFD.


Collaboration has been a focus for CIFD, which now has 55 members across fashion, accessories, millinery, jewellery and childrenswear. The latest include hatmaker Wendy Louise with basketmaker Aoife Patterson; Faye Rochford of FeRi with feltmaker Carmen Garcia; and Cobblers Lane with lacemaker Sara Clancy. CIFD, which has adopted a sustainability charter, is also a founder member of the 25-strong European Fashion Alliance.

In its latest digital show, colour was strong both for evening and daywear, though black and white still remained a top favourite for party and after dark.

Knitwear played to Irish strengths with bold silhouettes from Laura Chambers, Linda Wilson, Gabrielle Malone and Urban Aran.

In a first introduction of menswear, Ciara Allen presented a streetwise collection in prints and fine tweeds from Kerry Woollen Mills, while menswear also featured in an updated pyjama collection from Loom Irish Linen.

Prints once again featured prominently, particularly those from Eadach by Sara O’Neill and Caroline Duffy.

Standout pieces were the intricate ribboned creations from Helen Hayes, and the babydoll and “Love Bomber” jackets in silk organza by Caoimhe Murphy, beaded with glass anatomical hearts.

Elsewhere there was also much to admire in jewellery, bags, bridal wear and loafers, and a striking neckpiece in glass, chain mail and aluminium, the result of a collaboration between jeweller Sara Ross and glass artist Maggie Napier.

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan is Irish Times Fashion Editor, a freelance feature writer and an author