Style capital goes global

PARIS, Milan, London, New York, Cork?

Looks like fashion’s Big Four has found a fifth capital as Cork Fashion Week (CFW) prepares to roll out the red carpet for its most prestigious event to date.

From its inception in 2008 by Lockdown Model Management directors Emer O’Sullivan and Vivienne Kelly, the event has become a recognised showcase for young designers and local fashion retailers. Boasting support from local trade, not to mention industry power players like couturier Peter O’Brien and designer Claire O’Connor (who recently made a dress for Michelle Obama), the event looks set to go global with Fashion TV broadcasting the event this year to 500 million viewers in 193 countries.

This is no mean feat. Operating with no title sponsor in a tenuous economic climate, the event has sold itself on the can-do attitude of its directors.

“We are both fiercely positive entrepreneurs and don’t believe in allowing obstacles get in the way,” asserts O’Sullivan of the fact that both she and Kelly took other jobs and saved every brown penny to ride the recession.

“We simply had to make it happen,” she adds. “And that we did.”

What is it about Cork that has captured the imagination of the public and the media in such a big way? According to O’Sullivan, who started CFW with Kelly as a way of giving local designers, production talent, boutiques and retailers a national platform, it’s all about talent.

“Cork city and county has always been a well known hub of artistic flair in Ireland,” she says. “In particular since the recession hit, the city has seen a massive underground scene taking off with a really interesting fusion of talent from designers, musicians and artists to photographers, make-up artists, stylists and bloggers.

“The fashion industry here, thanks to CFW’s growth, is being taken a lot more seriously with opportunities both here and abroad for many of the talented students involved in being part of the creative process.”

Aidan Sheehan, 2009’s Designer of the Year winner is one such example. Now working in London (where his scarf designs have been manufactured by River Island), his return to Cork to showcase a new fashion collection at CFW has already generated massive buzz among the local fashion community. And that’s not the only frisson afoot. Former Miss World Rosanna Davison is set to open the week with the ‘Fashion Rocks’ Fashion TV party with guest and fellow model Georgia Salpa at the Blue Haven in Kinsale on September 23. The highly anticipated CFW Design of the Year Awards & Showcase at the spectacularly renovated Christchurch will feature guest judge — stylist Maria Fusco — whose credits include working for Karl Lagerfeld, Thierry Mugler and Daphne Guinness; not to mention the chance to rub shoulders with Cork make-up artist Kate Noonan and fashion photographer Miki Barlok.

With a patently bright present, what does the future hold for Cork Fashion Week?

“Vivienne and I look forward to growing CFW in the coming years to be on a par with other international fashion weeks,” confesses O’Sullivan who cites Cork’s world famous Jazz festival — patroned by none other than Ella Fitzgerald — as a template for potential success. Don’t be surprised if next year you see Erin O’Connor walking down Patrick Street. Something tells me these girls mean business.

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