Buyers prove passion for Irish fashion remains

IRISH designers said it has been a successful few days for business during London Fashion Week, despite concerns that the week has failed to attract big international buyers.

Popular names like Quin and Donnelly and Avoca presented their collections for autumn/winter 2008 in London yesterday.

Six other independent Irish labels, including Aideen Bodkin, Deborah Veale, Fee G, Mary Grant, Rachel Mackay and N&C Kilkenny, showed collections at the Pure exhibition taking place away from the main catwalk events.

Irish designers said they have attracted many foreign stores and expanded their markets in Britain and Europe, despite reports that the fashion business has been slow this year.

The Avoca Renaissance label on show yesterday was inspired by the age of travel and classic literature.

Using the theme, First Class on the Orient Express, the collection included brown leather cases, smart 1930s trousers, 1940s A-line skirts and petticoat slip dresses with ruffled hems.

Fabrics were inspired by dusty-deep red velvet curtains, rich upholstery and wallpaper brocades.

Another theme was Arctic Explorer meets Snow Queen referring to the use of crystallised snow flakes and ice drops as well as knits encrusted with twinkling gemstones.

The chunky knits in delicate cream, with sparkling gold threads, shimmer and silver, created “a frozen world in spell-bound slumber” according to the designer.

Other Avoca pieces were closer to home, with heather, berry and pebble coloured knits inspired by “wistful Wuthering Heights walks on heathered downs and misty moors”.

Quin and Donnelly stayed loyal to its popular jersey dresses but made them “a bit more quirky,” according to sales manager Vincent Frayssinet.

The collection focuses on texture and shapes, with silver and shimmery detail added to dresses which can be worn at work and through to evening time.

Pieces come in a number of matching shades — black with sapphire, emerald green with silver, berry with charcoal grey and bronze with gold.

“For us it’s been a good week, we picked up new accounts out of Ireland and Britain, and kept old accounts, said Mr Frayssinet.

“We’re now stocked in House of Fraser in Manchester and Birmingham, and also in the House of Fraser opening in Belfast next month,” he said.

He said Quin and Donnelly have not been affected by a general slow down in the fashion business.

“So far we have seen no effect. This has been one of our strongest seasons ever. One of the reasons is that we have a very strong collection and our price point is also very good, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get our product,” he said.

Kildare designer Mary Grant is showing in London for the first time in six years, and she said business from Irish buyers has been good.

“Irish shops don’t seem to see any economic effects yet,” said Ms Grant.

Her collection features double-layered dresses that allow wearers to “play around with the hem” with fabrics of crushed velvet, embroidery and fine quilting.

One of Ireland’s most successful up-and-coming designers, Aideen Bodkin, continues to attract Irish and European buyers this week with her beautiful occasion-wear.

Among her designs on show yesterday was a black and gold dress with oversized beads attaching thin straps.

Ms Bodkin also showed a kingfisher-blue silk chiffon dress with Spanish-style frills.

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