Robyn Lynch is an Irish menswear designer living and working in London.
A few weeks ago, she released a capsule collection at London Fashion Week’s first gender neutral, digital showcase: a short video of how she made 12 pieces from deadstock fabrics she had left over in her studio from the past two years and from disused fabrics donated from cycling brand Rapha.
The making of it will be completely unlike her January show at London Fashion Week Men’s, when she crammed 14 people into her Hackney apartment to apply the finishing touches from tailoring to casting, styling to hair and make-up. Now, it’s just Lynch, a handful of collaborators, two sewing machines, some leftover fabric and the kitchen table. Furthermore, there was no fashion show at the end of it.
“It was a bit anticlimactic. We had the same pre-show rush to get everything finished but without the show,” said Lynch over Zoom.
Lynch designs men’s clothes inspired by her Irish heritage but not beholden to it. She’s interested in fashion as a form of storytelling. For autumn/winter 2020, shown in January, she spent time on Inis Óirr, a population of 260, looking at how clothing connects generations, from the young teens and older men living by their own style rules.
For spring/summer 2020, she looked at Irish family vacations before the package holiday became a thing — remember when.
Other past collections plumbed the Dublin GAA uniform colours, another looked to the Irish flag.
She is redefining tradition for the modern man’s wardrobe. Her take on the Aran is smart: she updates tradition by way of sportier elements, nylon panels that add a modern frisson of excitement to an old classic. (She produces in Leicester, England. It is currently too expensive to produce in Ireland and manufacturers are sceptical to work with what they see as unconventional designs.) In this capsule, rendered in a palette of deep blue, traffic cone orange, moss green and grey, she sliced up two windproof jackets, reforming them with a panel of her own surplus knit fabric, to create a zip-knit technical sweater.
She cuts Irish linen, woven in Donegal, into tailored jackets and pants spliced with grey nylon panels. In the past she’s shown prints that reference Aertel, the Irish Teletext channel. The clothes have a global appeal of the wave fashion is currently riding, a hybrid of classicism, tradition, and sportswear - take for example a windproof jacket was cut up and reformed to create a pair of shorts or reworking tight cycling jersey shorts by adding her own contrasting panels to create a roomier silhouette.
Less than two years ago, Lynch was working in the Pearl Deli, her father’s sandwich shop in the Baldoyle Industrial Estate, Dublin, when she received the news that she secured a coveted place at London Fashion Week Men’s in January 2019. Having graduated with an MA in Menswear from Westminster University, London, she joined Fashion East, an emerging talent incubator. It’s a platform that has launched the careers of some of fashion’s most important names, among them the Irish stars Simone Rocha, Jonathan Anderson, and Richard Malone.
Ireland has never shown great prowess in its menswear stars - save for Lynch, the newcomer Rory Parnell-Mooney, Bryan Conway who works at Tiger of Sweden, and the virtuosic Jonathan Anderson of JW Anderson and Loewe who is the only one to have risen to international acclaim.
Lynch is using the recent capsule collection, already available for purchase on her website, to try and get some cash flow into the business.
The collaboration with Rapha was a personal coup. Lynch, who enjoys a cycle around East London with her roommate every night, had seen Ger Tierney, associate creative director at Rapha post one of her images on Instagram. She invited her to coffee over the social media app. Originally, Lynch had planned to visit the archive for research purposes. When a mandated quarantine commenced, she asked if Rapha could kindly donate some disused fabric. They obliged.
“It was about how to generate something from nothing,” said Lynch.
By using resources around her, on a low budget, Lynch had an opportunity to raise brand awareness while also making some money. (Less than a year into trading, she was ineligible for financial support from the British government.) One of the most difficult aspects of being a young working designer today is the pressure the system places on talent to meet unrealistic deadlines and produce unnecessary quantities.
Lockdown has given me the confidence to reassess what’s functional as a business
In September, she will expand upon the collection for wholesale and production but notes she will be more careful with the allocation of her resources. “I have completely overproduced in the past and it’s not sustainable or necessary,” said Lynch. “The virus has taught me to pare back completely. Last season Lynch made three blazers for the collection. They didn’t sell in Paris. In future, she would consider investing time, energy and money into producing just one. “I want to make smaller, more concise collections.”
In September, Lynch is set to launch a pop-up shop at a high-profile retailer in Europe - close to home. At present, her work is stocked in a handful of stores in Japan, South Korea, and the United States, as well as on her own direct-to-consumer website.
Notwithstanding the steady levels of uncertainty within the industry in the wake of the pandemic or the woes of being a small business, Lynch is emphatic about future prospects. “I’m excited,” she says, with a winning smile.
To buy Robyn Lynch, visit robynlynch.co.uk