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Keep your corporate cool this summer

Think cottons, silks and linens to avoid going into meltdown in hot, sticky offices

Ellis dress, €270, by NC Kilkenny at Arnotts.

Ellis dress, €270, by NC Kilkenny at Arnotts.


Trying to maintain an element of style and dignity while travelling to work in the height of summer is challenging. The inevitable overcrowding on bus or train leads to all sorts of unsightly close encounters. Either your nose gets squashed into the damp sweaty armpit of a strap-hanging fellow traveller or you find your shirt is stuck to your back when it’s time to hop off the bus.

To maintain a modicum of style, you must prepare your triple Cs – clothing, climate, change.

This wardrobe offensive will help you to keep your cool and stay fresh. First of all, it’s essential to wear breathable fabrics like cotton, silk, muslin and linen as no amount of deodorant can tackle the distinctive odour of trapped perspiration. Fortunately, there are lots of Irish fashion labels designing sustainable, organic garments for customers who care where their clothes come from.

“It’s not who you wear but how and where it is made,” says Eva Power, who runs the Ethical Silk Company. Her pure silk dresses, pillowcases and camisoles are manufactured by a Fairtrade collective of women in India. She emphasises quality and concentrates on key pieces rather than overload design.

“Silk minimizes overheating under the sheets, or on stuffy trains. It reduces hot flushes and is known as the daywear of sweet dreams,” she says. “Silk pillowcases are great for preventing wrinkles and you wake up to a better hair day too.”

We are Islanders is another Irish clothing company that produces sustainable fabrics that are intrinsically aerated – the label is dedicated to organic materials as well as being fashion conscious. The ethos of the brand puts a contemporary twist on summer styles.

The Tweed Project is a proud leader in the slow fashion movement, where craft and quality takes priority over faddish trends and fast consumer habits.

Marks & Spencer can also be commended for expanding its range of Fairtrade cotton tee-shirts and underwear and remains committed to environmental principles. It aims to be the most sustainable retailer in the UK by 2020.

Prairie (prairietraders.com) is another green fashion label inspired by nature and marine life. Its emblematic tee-shirts come in soft organic ring-spun fabrics and are available at The T-Shirt Company in Dublin and Galway. No GMO chemicals and clean water supplies leave a low carbon footprint.

Good for the environment

These fabrics are not just refreshing but good for the environment as well as your skin. Diffusion.ie, run by fashion buyer Kate Gleeson, caters for smart office options that look great after work hours too. “Every year I try to make it a priority, before the summer, to make room for my key summer pieces and to mix them with what I have from last year. It can be really hard to piece together outfits in a disorganised closet. I find that we really do get the most out of our clothes when they’re categorised and smartly arranged.” Gleeson also urges us to recycle our older gear. “Go out and give something to someone who appreciates the offer or bring it into Oxfam.”

She also recommends floaty cotton dresses in stripes or florals for the office executive. Wear them on their own with sandals or with cotton capris and a silk camisole underneath.

Kate Marshall is an up-and-coming Irish designer who has just launched a great line of summer dresses for Topshop in the UK. The colours are full of summer petals and floral shades, making them an instant hit with office style leaders and festival followers.

In the office, regulating heat can be erratic – we’re too hot one minute and frozen by the air conditioning the next. We all have different body temperature gauges. A new fabric developed by a team of technicians at the University of Maryland can automatically cool you down when the mercury rises. For instance, let’s take a typical office scenario: you find yourself sweltering at a stuffy meeting, beads of sweat trickling down your back – immediately, your shirt registers the rising heat and triggers the fabric cooler to kick in. The fibre strands coated with carbon nanotubes expand and contract as the temperature changes.

For menswear, Louis Copeland’s summer range features silk- and linen-blend fitted jackets and MMX beige chinos. A swift scan of its key summer styles highlights smart, flexible blazers, open-necked shirts and balmy Bermuda shorts. Nicky Wallace, (related to the hirsute Mick) tailors men’s suits in 100 per cent natural fabrics. “My ready-to-wear collections are manufactured in Italy because I believe in Fairtrade and I work with artisan families who are paid good rates for their expertise and this makes the industry sustainable.” Nicky Wallace suits have exceptional finish and are made from extra fine wools. nickywallace.comCaroline Kilkenny and her sister Nicola don’t compromise their principle for fast fashion profits. All their pieces incorporate a creative concept – from unique sleeve shapes to the vibrant red Morris Jumpsuit. So you get a distinctive corporate image with impressive designer twists. These award-winning fashionista-sistas also use airy materials to keep you cool.

So, think climate, clothing, change and you won’t get hot under the collar or lose your corpo cool.