‘I am so happy – it is really special’: Irish designers shine at red carpet season

The high-profile exposure is incalculable for the throng of fashion designers from Ireland featured at this week’s Met Gala in New York

“I am so happy – it is really special for a young designer to be chosen for the Met Gala,” Irish designer Róisín Pierce says, whose intricate Irish crochet dress and headpiece was worn by British television presenter Alexa Chung at the event honouring the late great fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. “Karl Lagerfeld’s couture was a huge inspiration to me and my first introduction to a contemporary eye, so this piece was an ode to him,” she says.

Pierce, the 29-year-old textile design graduate committed to zero waste, was a LVMH finalist in 2022 and cited by Forbes as one of the 30 under 30 to watch that year. She was just one of a galaxy of Irish designers dressing celebrities on the red carpet in New York that included Simone Rocha, Philip Treacy, Michael Stewart, Jonathan Anderson and New York-based Dubliner, embroiderer Laura Weber. Weber embellished 16 looks for different celebrities.

Pierce’s star is rising fast following her first ground-breaking crochet collection Mná i Bhláth (Women in Bloom), which referenced the Magdalene laundries and earned her the Chanel Metiers prize in Hyeres in 2019. Last September she made her debut at the official Paris Fashion Week with another all white collection, which was reviewed with great enthusiasm by Sarah Mower in British Vogue who wrote about its “loveliness and dark storytelling”.

The review prompted Chung to follow Pierce on Instagram and influenced the presenter’s decision to wear something from that collection for the Met ball. “(Chung) was really interested and I am really proud of what she chose as so much thought and emotion went into this collection which referenced Irish women’s work, traditional craft and a search for a new beauty. Women’s work is a huge part of what I do and continues to drive so much research and emotion,” Pierce says.


For London-based Clare designer Michael Stewart, who dressed Dutch model Imaan Hammam in a custom-made long-sleeved jersey dress with pearl detailing, being chosen for the Met ball was “a pleasing and nice experience. And to do my work the way I do it rather than swathing someone in layers of taffeta was great. I always work better when I am allowed to do what I like and not having to provide something attention grabbing, but more quietly confident and powerful,” he says. The stylist and fashion director of Elle USA, Alex White, who had shot one of his looks for Elle “reached out to me for the Met and was a dream to work with,” he says.

Such exposure for independent designers alongside powerful international brands such as Dior and Chanel on the red carpet is incalculable given the coverage of the gala, one of the most high-profile fashion events on the calendar. “I am sure there will be further opportunities” says Stewart, “because it is associated with certain standards.”

In the meantime he continues to work on a made-to-order basis “because I cannot see a more sustainable way business wise and it is a nice way to have control”. In September he will present a collection at London Fashion Week with Fashion East, an incubator showcasing emerging talent.

For Philip Treacy, dressing celebrities is nothing new and his creation for Jennifer Lopez, a black pillbox with spiralling netting generated many comments on social media, most arguing that the hat was the best part of her outfit. The celebrated Irish milliner will be in the limelight again this weekend providing many of the royals with their headwear for the coronation of King Charles III, where all the female royals who wore black for the funeral of the queen will this time be wearing white.

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan

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