Whether it’s to gain an MA from a top fashion college, secure a work placement at a prestigious fashion house, or build a brand in one of the world’s fashion capitals, London has long been luring Ireland’s best and brightest design talent across the water.
For some, it’s temporary – a career building step along the path to fashion success back home or a star-making graduate show that propels them on adventures further flung. But for others, London is a natural base from which to forge their career in fashion. Working for a brand or building their own, an hour from home they are at the heart of the international fashion industry; and for those who go it alone, the fact is, the support of the British Fashion Council far outweighs anything they might be offered at home.
It’s only a couple of decades since the BFC put London on the fashion map, but for as long as London Fashion Week has been drawing buyers and press in their droves, Irish designers have been beating a path to the city to take advantage of the exposure this biannual fashion fest offers.
Heavy hitters like PaulCostelloe, Orla Kiely and Philip Treacy remain fashion week fixtures, while relative newcomers JW Anderson and Simone Rocha – both of whom were nurtured through the BFC’s talent identification schemes – have found international success. Current NEWGEN star Richard Malone seems destined to follow in their footsteps, while Colin Horgan’s graduate collection has marked him as one to watch. Úna Burke needs no introduction, and her fellow Brown Thomas CREATE alumni Derek Lawlor and Riona Treacy are making their marks on the London fashion landscape too.
A graduate of Limerick School of Art and Design, Úna Burke moved to London to do an MA at the London College of Fashion, and now hand-produces her distinctive, multi-award winning leather accessories from her South London atelier. With numerous high fashion collaborations under her belt and retailers all over the world, she produces one-off commissions and seasonal collections, and has seen her work exhibited internationally; showcased in every fashion publication of note; worn by style icons Daphne Guinness, Rihanna and Madonna; on the big screen in The Hunger Games; and featured in Brown Thomas’ CREATE. See unaburke.com for more.
Wexford designer and Central Saint Martins graduate Richard Malone could never be accused of losing touch with his roots. He made his graduate collection in a shed at the bottom of his parents’ garden, and three years and six collections later his avant-garde work continues to be inspired by the quintessentially Irish signifiers of his working class upbringing. Now, following in the footsteps of fellow Irish luminaries Simone Rocha and Jonathan Anderson, the award-winning designer is setting London alight with his energetic and idiosyncratic fashion week presentations and refreshingly anti-fashion point of view. See Richard-malone.com for more.
Born in Portlaoise, knitwear maestro Derek Lawlor credits his interest to summers spent watching his grandmother and aunts knitting and lacemaking. A graduate of Central Saint Martins, he’s been pushing the boundaries of knitwear through his work for his own label, consultancy work, and collaborations with the likes of designer Natalie B Coleman and milliner Margaret O’Connor. Three consecutive years participating in Brown Thomas’ CREATE helped him nurture relationships with stockists and customers. See dereklawor.com for more.
Like many Irish graduates, a work placement was what first drew Belfast-born Riona Treacy to London. After a six month stint with Alexander McQueen – which saw her embroidery designs feature in the designer’s final collection – and a placement with Mary Katrantzou, Treacy went on to launch her own label, and her debut collection featured in Brown Thomas’ CREATE in 2012.
Producing ready-to-wear and working to order, her MA in Textiles means fabrications and dye processes remain at the heart of Riona’s collections, where simple, structural shapes showcase her engineered fabrics and complex hand-dye techniques. See rionatreacy.com for more.
LSAD graduate Colin Horgan was fast becoming one-to-watch on the Irish fashion scene when he launched his debut collection here in 2014, but after a year working in Copenhagen he decided to further his skills with an MA in fashion at London’s Royal College of Art.
Returning to his native Kerry in 2016 to show at Kerry Fashion Week, Horgan was crowned Breakthrough Designer, and this year his graduate collection got rave reviews. Lady Gaga wears boots from the collection on her world tour, meaning his star has officially been pushed into orbit. See colin-horgan.com for more.
‘Brisk’, RCA 2017 graduate collection by Colin Horgan. For enquiries see colin-horgan.com.