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Being happy in your own skin is the latest fashion trend

Kathleen O'Callaghan looks forward to a slow serene fashion scene

The suit is an endangered species. Even Marks & Spencer, the epicentre of suitability, has stopped stocking suits in some UK stores as sales of formal wear fall by 72 per cent. In a world of remote working, the proverbial tin of fruit is losing its relevance as people opt for leggings, shorts, sweatshirts and hoodies. The structured suit of armour is being ditched in exchange for more casual clobber.

Along with the suit follows that other redundant emblem of masculinity – the old school tie. It’s the equivalent of the human appendix serving no meaningful function other than to add extra expense to your wardrobe.

On the upside, however, sartorial style is very much back in vogue with menswear designers like Nicky Wallace leading the way with gorgeous pink linen jackets, fine tailoring, silk shirts and luxurious blouson jackets. Paul Costelloe is also a man with a linen mission with cool shirts and trousers trading briskly.

After a year of home bound dressing – where anything from pyjamas to a string vest sufficed – the return to the office also features looser clothing with high-quality fabrics, linen trousers, silk shirts and breathable cotton tops.


Being happy in your own skin is the latest fashion call as more thoughtful and sustainable clothing wings its way into our shops. For many Irish designers this is the breakthrough that they have been waiting for as organic linens, tweeds, hemp and ethical knitwear have long been the key pillars of homespun manufacturing.

Whether you admire Donegal Tweeds, Inis Meáin jackets, Aran sweaters, Connemara lace or fluffy mohair cardigans, this is a chance to try out a new style that reflects your individuality rather than having to conform to an office uniform.

The new holistic and sustainable fashion scene has also seen a marked increase in vintage and recycled fashions that transcend seasonal fads. Fashion influencers are no longer dictating the trends as more discerning shoppers see through the hair extensions, Botox and acrylic nails promoting fast fashion products.

Fortunately, we won’t see a return of the “roaring twenties” predicted by fortune tellers with faulty crystal balls. Female flappers in tassel dresses dancing with knock-kneed partners in two-tone shoes and fedora hats are unlikely to be seen in nightclubs. Nor shall we be glamming it up with power shoulder jackets, contoured dresses, bandage skirts or conical bras.

Instead, a sense of restraint returns to wardrobes as clothes become less ostentatious and more in harmony with the environment.

Stella McCartney is one of the fashion industry’s eco-warriors always using sustainable materials in her collections. She has been an advocate of slow fashion manufacturing and would never use animal fur or leather in her designs. Using her creativity, she has spent time exploring different materials to achieve a similar look. Her wide leg trousers and flared midi-skirts stroll onto the high street along with silk parachute pants and skinny fit polo necks.

Designers like Edel McBride and NC Kilkenny are also concentrating on more classic styles for autumn. Many of them were relieved to be able to hit the reset button instead of churning out trends that change every few months without any good reason.

Closer to home, the Inis Meáin Knitting Company designs and produces individual, unique pieces of knitwear in the finest yarns, all exquisitely finished by hand. Its range has new styles as well as variations on its customers’ favourite sweaters.

The company founded by Tarlach de Blácam and Áine Ní Chongaile is based on the island itself and features a small knitting factory that gives local employment. The authentic heritage, sophisticated design, and beautiful dyed yarns of Inis Meáin knitwear are appreciated by many famous fans including actor Patrick Dempsey.

Its reputation has travelled internationally but it chooses not to mass produce. Instead, it specialises in small runs in order to produce a selection of different styles.

Béibhinn McGrath launched her label in 2017 after working as a costume designer for film. She always had a passion for Irish wool and sustainable clothing along with a vast knowledge of garment construction that makes her so popular with younger trendsetting shoppers.

“Four threads” design was set up by Alana Clegg during her graduate year in NCAD and she makes handmade, ethically sourced fabrics from local Irish linen to handwoven Indian cotton. She celebrates the heritage of traditional techniques that have been passed down from generation through tradition but with a futuristic silhouette.

Another great boutique is Slow St in Blackrock, Co Dublin owned by Evelyn Browne. "I wanted to make it easier for people to pick up positive impact clothing and to think of their clothing as more of a valued possession rather than disposable and transient," she says. Labels include Fanfare denims repurposed from discarded fabrics that would otherwise end up in waste and organic cotton sweatshirts pants and T-shirts made in Portugal.

Meanwhile, things are loosening up below the waist. Stilettos have been kicked under the bed and swapped for fashionable flatties and trainers. Men's brogues and laced shoes are getting the red card as sporting giants like Nike, Puma and Adidas jog into the leisure footwear department.

Men can also cast off those stretchy skinny jeans that merely highlighted the girth of the beer-bellied bon viveur by juxtaposing his upper torso with a pair of knock-kneed ostrich legs. At least we can thank the pandemic for some small sartorial mercies!

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times