Inside the wardrobes of Ireland's top designers

Ever wondered what’s inside the wardrobes of Ireland’s top designers and stylists? Weekend takes a look
Inside the wardrobes of Ireland's top designers

We’re a nosey lot, especially when it comes to other people’s wardrobes. There’s nothing like a glimpse of someone’s sartorial stash to pique our curiosity. After all, our closets are more than just a collection of clothing, they hold the memories, habits and stories of the people we are and, quite often, secrets of those we once were. With that, we sent out our style spies to uncover the closet confessions of four well-known Irish fashion figures. Get ready for the big reveal!

Sonya Lennon - Designer, broadcaster and co-founder

Describe your closet in three words.

Colourful, confident, sparkly.

What are your closet/wardrobe staples?

I wear a lot of Lennon Courtney. Our dresses have been successful because women feel like they are friendly pieces. If stuck for time, you put one on and you know you’ll look cooked. Aside from dresses, I’d say shoes as feature pieces (for colour and madness) and jackets because a little bit of tailoring to define the silhouette always makes you look better.

How/at what point did you find your personal style?

In the 80s, I became obsessed with Jeanne Becker from Fashion TV and was overcome with a desire to create. My mum (a former transatlantic air hostess) is a hoarder, so I would repurpose her clothing and make a lot of my own clothes when I was younger. It was a real self-expression period – great fun for making jewellery. At one stage, I made a muslin wide leg trouser and parka out of white lining material and I was wearing pendants in the shape of an anarchy sign sprayed in silver. Go easy on me. It was the 80s!

Which item in your closet makes you happiest? Why?

I have a jacket which is entirely covered in gold sequins which I bought in Platform – a pre-loved designer clothing boutique in Rathgar. I’ll wear it on a good day but especially a bad day. I like to combat negative feelings with positive clothing.

Which item in your closet gives you the best cost-per-wear value? Why?

A pair of Eileen Shields black courts which I bought at 5 Scarlett Row about 12 years ago. They are the perfect shape – like Mum’s standard issue Aer Lingus court shoe from the 80s – a great court with a thick heel. Really comfy and great with jeans.

Also, a Tim Ryan black lurex knit 2-piece with shaggy mohair which was called the ‘gorilla’ skirt and top. It gives me a joyous feeling whenever I put it on.

Do you carry any emotional baggage in your wardrobe? e.g. items you refuse to part with?

At the start of my career, I’d dream about having certain things. I’d put them on layaway – I remember that so well. I have this Rifat Özbek suit with really incredible embroidery on the back of the jacket with shorts to go with it. Outmoded now but they remind me of a moment in time and for that reason I’d consider them high value even if I don’t wear them. It’s more of a keepsake rather than keeping something for the sake of it.

Whose closet would you love to raid given half a chance?

Iris Apfel. Having been to the Prada exhibition in Selfridges, I’d swoop all of it up in my arms and be happy.

What would people be surprised to find in your wardrobe?

A pair of Birkenstocks. I wore them every single day of holidays; I wore them for another four days when I got home until Brendan gave me dirty looks!

Do you have a go-to piece for getting dressed on the fly for an event?

A bitter chocolate brown jumpsuit from this season’s Lennon Courtney for Dunnes Stores collection is phenomenal to lash on – that and a pair of earrings and heels and you’re done.

Are you an emotional shopper or a considered shopper?

The collection is the mainstay of my wardrobe for every season. The purchases I make tend to be more accessories. I’m not an emotional shopper. I assess how valuable something will be to me and make a calculated decision. I never feel the need to buy something at this stage in my life - that has gone away by default. It’s a symptom of it, so each purchase is considered.

Favourite brands that make your space uniquely you?

Anything I’ve ever bought from Prada has given me massive value. I’m in love the shoe designer Pierre Hardy. French shoe designer Eugène Riconneaus is a very cool, snake-hipped skateboarder who makes these amazing womanly shoes. In Irish terms, Liam Fahy is absolutely magnificent.

Annmarie O’Connor - Fashion writer, stylist, wardrobe wellness coach and author of The Happy Closet

Describe your closet in three words.

Purposeful, elegant, textured.

Are you a hoarder or a declutterer?

Declutterer. My book The Happy Closet is a self-help guide to balancing well-being and being well-dressed inspired by my own journey from a reformed hoarder to a wardrobe wellness coach.

What are your closet/wardrobe staples?

Single- and double-breasted tailored wool coats in navy, red, camel and black. Outerwear is paramount in Ireland, especially with our wonky weather. A great coat is also the easiest way to sharpen up an outfit whilst still being practical.

How has your style evolved over the years?

My fashion phases have run the gamut from looking to like a girl band auditionee to a cross between Grace Jones and a Cistercian monk. After years of worshipping the altar of trends, I’ve finally found my style groove. Amen to that!

Which item in your closet makes you happiest? Why?

A full-length pink and gold brocade coat I bought in Miss Daisy Blue. It gives me goosebumps!

Which item in your closet gives you the best cost-per-wear value? Why?

I keep a check on my wanton eye as I’m a recovering Impulse Buyer. These days, I’m pretty measured in my

buying habits and regularly audit what I have to ensure balance.

I treat my day-to-day garments as employees and review their performance on a quarterly basis. If they are not working hard enough, I try to understand why. If I they don’t have the potential to contribute to my sartorial bottom line, they get a P45. If I’ve somehow overlooked them, I put them on probation for another quarter and invest a bit more time and effort into their wear factor.

How do you organise your closet?

I organise my closet by length, garment type and colour. Sorting according to garment type and silhouette helps determine what you need and don’t need. Sorting according to colour helps visualise an outfit by separates and mix and match combinations you may not have considered. Graduating hem lengths from long to short will create extra room on one side – ideal for creating extra room in smaller spaces. It’s also important to create leverage for removing and replacing pieces without causing a mosh pit on the floor. Breathing room contributes to flow and general closet well-being.

Whose closet would you love to raid given half a chance?

Jenna Lyons, creative director of J.Crew. Her eye for incorporating print and textures into daywear has colonised my Pinterest board.

Favourite brands or garments that make your space uniquely you?

My wardrobe consists mainly of Lennon Courtney, COS, Maje, Sandro, Zara, Finery London and vintage pieces from Miss Daisy Blue. I have a sprinkling of designer pieces like my Dries Van Noten shoes, Joanne Hynes accessories and ready-to-wear and Pauric Sweeny bags that I’ve had for years. They wear well and warrant the spend.

Emma Manley - Creative director at Manley

Describe your closet in three words.

Packed with Manley.

What are your closet staples?

Leather skirts, leather t-shirts and trainers. That’s me, most days.

What’s your signature piece?

No matter the weather, I’m a legs out kind of a girl, so it has to be a leather skirt. In winter, I love layering chunky knits and in summer, I contrast lighter and sheer silk tops with leather skirts. It’s always a leather skirt day to me.

Which item in your closet makes you happiest? Why?

This season it’s the Harper pants from Manley. I’m not a massive pant wearer but there’s the kind of pair you want to wear all the time and this is it. I wear them with brogues for daytime cool and with statement heels for date night.

Do you carry any emotional baggage in your wardrobe? e.g. regrettable purchases; items you refuse to part with? Why or why not?

A Versace men’s smoking jacket I found at a flea market when I was interning in New York. I’ve contemplated framing it for memory’s sake but I’m afraid I may need to wear it again!

How do you organise your closet?

By garment. My wardrobe is mostly trans-seasonal and I hate mixing garment types together so it’s the only way for me. Within those garment groups, I colour code where possible. It doesn’t stay that organised for long, believe me.

Top tip for hanging, folding or storing garments, especially leather or special pieces?

Don’t squish leather items into a closet that’s full. Give them space to hang and breathe so you don’t get stubborn creases in them.

Whose closet would you love to raid given half a chance?

Angela Scanlon’s. That girl has serious style.

Do you have a go-to piece for getting dressed on the fly for an event?

My Manley Lee dress. It’s an LBD but with a difference. It’s loose-fitting so there’s no ‘I hate my tummy’ issues. Its black patent leather collar gives it an instant cool stamp and the fact that it looks as good with brogues as it does with heels means you can be dressed for anything.

What keeps your closet humming and happy?

Every few months I take everything out, give it a good clean and put everything straight back in refolded, rehung and in general revitalised.

Favourite brands or garments (are you a loafer gal or do you live in dresses) that make your space uniquely you?

Brogues of any kind with almost any outfit. I’m forever on the move so heels aren’t often an option. Buffalo shoes are my go to and they answerable for my metallic brogue addiction.

Emer O’Mahony - Director Lockdown Events | Model Management | Fashion PR

Are you a hoarder or a declutterer?


How many closets do you use?

3 plus the attic!

How/at what point did you find your personal style?

Before I had my first baby, vintage pieces and brands like COS became my go-to clothes as they took me from work to events seamlessly but after the baby I lost my style mojo. I found it again once I lost some weight 12 months after having Erin but I’m pregnant now, so I’m back into the confusing cycle of dressing my ever-changing body shape.

Which item in your closet makes you happiest? Why?

A long navy coat with a waterfall front and a tattoo-like bird print on the back. I bought it online at for Cork Fashion Week and it suits my growing baby bump. There were only two stocked on the site, so I know it’s special.

Which item in your closet gives you the best cost-per-wear value? Why?

My Topshop Joni jeans. They’re like the Bridget Jones’ knickers version of jeans - super stretchy, high-waisted skinnies. I don’t know a woman who isn’t deeply and madly in love with how her Joni jeans make her feel. I am still wearing mine at 4 months pregnant. They are light denim so they dry on the radiator (sorry, yes I do that!) quickly and wash well.

Do you carry any emotional baggage in your wardrobe? e.g. any items you refuse to part with?

Yes, I have quite a few pieces that I box away and put up to the attic but can’t part with. Aside from my vintage wedding dress, I have some really gorgeous pieces (especially vintage) that are really special as I love a garment with a story. Some dresses have great memories but I have been photographed online and in press wearing them so I feel I can’t wear them again. Only Kate Middleton gets away with that. I really should let go but I can’t.

Whose closet would you love to raid given half a chance?

Alexa Chung - I love her androgynous style. Also, Victoria Beckham’s dress collection; Iris Apfel’s jewellery box and Angela Scanlon’s wardrobe.

What would readers be surprised to see in your closet?

Lots of vintage and limited edition sports gear from over a decade ago. I have some collector’s Adidas and other sports pieces that were only available in London or further afield.When I am finished growing humans, I’ll venture into that dark part of the cupboard again.

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