Harvey Nicholas success for Irish designer

AN up-and-coming Irish designer has been signed by the exclusive Harvey Nichols store in what has been a successful few days for the Irish at London Fashion Week.

Harvey Nichols managers spotted the spring/summer 2007 collection by Helen James from Dublin at an exhibition room in London and will stock it in all their stores next year.

Helen, 36, studied in the National College of Art and Design before moving to New York where she worked with Donna Karan. After taking a few years break from the fashion industry, she returned home to set up her own design studios three years ago.

She said the latest signing is a “a huge boost” in an industry where Irish designers often find it hard to get noticed: “It’s very hard to get started, and to get recognition outside of Ireland. My agent has done a good job at launching me in the UK and I am now stocked in some stores on Regent Street and Notting Hill. This has an influence on Irish buyers as well because when they hear you’re doing well in the UK they are more interested in your collections.”

Her spring/summer 2007 designs, which were made in Westmeath but have a Japanese feel, include silk dresses with hand printed Kimono sleeves, as well as simple silk neckscarves in bright colours.

Apart from internationally-known Irish names such as John Rocha and Philp Treacy, smaller, and mostly female, Irish designers have used the week to expand their markets to Britain and beyond.

Eilis Boyle, has been approached by a Japanese chain store, Adam A Rope, who will stock her designs in 25 shops in Japan. She already sells to nine branches of Japanese department stores as well as the Japanese equivalent to Brown Thomas, United Arrows.

“I already sell some lines of clothes and accessories in Japan, but this is the first time I am selling a full collection.” she said.

Eilis grew up in Spain and studied design in Madrid, but her clothes are distinctly Irish, with fine-knit tops over layered dresses. Her colour palette is very subtle and natural with the use of sage, cream and black.

Other designers, Lucy Downes, whose label is called Sphere One, and Leigh Tucker, whose collection is Leighlee, are also enjoying a successful week in London, and have received a high level of interest from international buyers.

Leigh, 33, said: “London Fashion week is quite important for Irish designers. The buyers don’t ever really come to Ireland. If you don’t show, they don’t know that you are here and they don’t know who you are, so showing in Dublin and showing in Paris doesn’t mean that much to the English market.”

Meanwhile, bags designed by Pauric Sweeney have already been described by Vogue as “fodder for all fashion followers.”

His Overnight collection uses leather from Italy, to where he has recently relocated, as well as snake, crocodile and lizard skin, all in exotic bottle green, silver, gold and brown.

Back on the catwalk, the Singapore born designer, Ashley Isham, staged what’s been hailed as the week’s hippest and coolest shows.

His dramatic costumes had flavours of Brazilian carnival with cheetah print, while models’ faces were decorated with feathers, lace and gold paint.

More in this section