Hello Lou


AN oft voiced complaint about fashion is that the same handful of ideas is endlessly recycled over successive decades. There's some justification this line of argument but it overlooks a very real and remarkable development right now the introduction new fabric technology. Every season, a with of fresh yarns and materials is introduced on the market, so that even if the design of clothes registers almost no change, the fabrics in which they're constructed alters all the time.

"The thing that I'm about is I just love to find out about fabric techniques," says young designer Lou Brennan whose own work reflects what's been happening in fashion of late. The National College of Art and Design's first fashion MA student Brennan is finishing off her graduate collection at the moment before next week's show at the RDS. "It's important to find a purpose for a technique," she believes. "I want to see it worn as a garment."

Lou Brennan speaks from experience. Born in London of Irish parentage, she studied fashion and textile design at Brighton University before working freelance with a number of England's latest generation of fashion names. Her portfolio represents an impressive roster of talent she has produced fabric and accessories for the likes of Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Copperwheat Blundell and Sonnentag Mulligan.

Eventually, however, she decided that producing the raw material for other designers wasn't satisfying enough. "I wanted to become more involved in the design side of things even though my background is mostly in textiles. That's why I decided to do an MA so that I could do the whole thing from start to finish." Already a winner of several awards for her innovative fabrics, Brennan moved to Dublin two years ago to resume study at the NCAD last summer she began working part time with John Rocha's studio. Such are her abilities that on leaving college next month, she'll be going straight into a job with Rocha where those textile skills will be put to good use.

Before then, the same talents can be seen in her MA collection, examples of which are shown here. Called "Beguile Me", the range is based on the idea of women and water myths. Through texture and colour, Brennan evokes the allure of mermaids and sirens, using printed, glazed and embroidered fabric. The predominant tone, naturally, is blue but it comes in a wide range of shades, enhanced by the employment of different patterns.

On a pair of navy denim jeans, for example, Brennan has stitched velvet applique in a swirling motif that suggests foaming waters. A similar design appears on the cuffs and trouser hems of a deep blue wool suit, lined in brilliantly contrasting turquoise. And just to demonstrate her skills with textile, we've included in these pictures a long train of velvet devore which has been a dominant theme of floating bubbles.

Unafraid to use fabrics out of their customary context, Brennan teamed her wool suit with a tiny sleeveless top in viscose net originally this was intended to serve merely as the toile for a later version in latex. And her white trouser suit is made of white paper taffeta, a material which more often serves as an underskirt for evening dresses. It's reminiscent of Chanel's bold employment in her women's collections of jersey, until then considered suitable only for men's underwear. That's the kind of bold leap of imagination which is now taking place in the area of fabric. Even if clothing design doesn't seem to change very much, Lou Brennan and her like should make certain that fashion never remains static.