Making the cut

SITTING front row at a Joanne Hynes fashion show should require seat belts — to counter the creative whiplash on the runway.

Galway designer Hynes stirred things up at London Fashion Week this year. Joining veterans like Paul Costelloe and John Rocha, and newcomers J W Anderson and Simone Rocha, Hynes’ presence on international catwalks has made being Irish a cool commodity.

Having graduated with an MA from London’s prestigious Central Saint Martin’s College in 2001, Hynes launched her label in 2003, with a one-off line for Topshop in 2005. Plaudits followed from Brown Thomas, which crowned her ‘Irish designer of the season’ in 2006; her design won Harper’s Bazaar’s ‘bag of the season’ in 2007. Though she has an illustrious client list including supermodel Jacquetta Wheeler, singer PJ Harvey and socialite Daphne Guinness, this year should be a whirlwind for Hynes. (Irish clients include: actress Amy Huberman, RTE weather woman Jean Byrne, singer/songwriters Roisin Murphy and Sharon Corr.)

February saw her autumn/winter 2011 collection debut at London Fashion Week with a Celtic punk explosion, followed in September by her quirky spring/summer 2012 line. In between the two shows, celebrated photographer Mario Testino shot her jewellery for British Vogue; her garments were seen on a host of familiar faces, from Paloma Faith to Nicola Roberts; her label was taken on by international stockists including Harvey Nichols.

So how is she adjusting? “It’s been really good. Change can be really challenging,” says the Tuam native whose peripatetic work schedule sees her travelling between Dublin, New Delhi, New York and London. “But I’ve had two London Fashion Week shows in one year. That’s really positive.”

So is the reaction to her ground-breaking autumn/winter 2011 pieces — oligarchic crystal collars, fearless six-inch patent platform boots, hand-woven basketry hats and ‘Pseudo-Kudo’ rubber tights.

So what is all the buzz about? “I put my heart into it [the collection]. I’m all over it. There’s an honesty around that which I think people see,” she says.

True. In a world of fast fads, diffusion lines and high-speed, high-street trends, Hynes’ vision resembles an artist’s — her ambition after school was to study fine art.

“I tend to be more concept-driven. I like doing things for the sake of it,” she says of her creative process. “I don’t think about fashion. It’s not something I consciously try to do. With me, I just grab it and go with it and run with it.”

That would explain her LFW catwalk show, where models in beehive hairdos sported foiled appliqué leather jackets layered over leather-and-sequin pencil skirts with couture latex stockings.

Yet behind her aspirational, challenging aesthetic is a revealing scintilla of who Hynes is — the designer, the woman, the rebel, the artist.

From her undercut, blonde tresses to her mismatched, embellished t-shirt, Lurex knee socks and pencil skirt, Hynes is a contradiction. This unstudied dissonance is part of her mystery — an ability to set the tone of fashion without falling prey to its fickleness.

“There is this woman in me who I am always trying to express in different forms,” she says. “So for spring/summer 2012 she came out in a way that made sense to me. It’s like I’m getting closer to her — or maybe it’s closer to myself.”

Based on Andy Warhol’s muse Edie Sedgwick, Hynes went to great lengths to research the ‘girl who stayed too long at the party’, who aspired and inspired in equal measure. “There’s a kind of tragedy to it as well,” she says, “because she was this amazingly beautiful and talented muse whom Warhol used to feed off. She was pure, creative, of the time and I think that’s what fashion is ... For me, she’s the star who shines really brightly. She’s the girl at the party who every man wants to be close to; every woman wants to be with her because she is interesting, mysterious and expressive. So, she’s a world of conflicts.”

This character, these contradictions, drive the designer to create a world where women want to live, to dress, to transform.

Hynes says the collection inspired by Warhol’s muse is only a slice of who she is. “It’s not my everything and it’s not everything that I’m capable of doing,” she says, adding that she’d like to get involved in theatre and film. “I think the world we’re living in, there’s so much more that can be done. I’m writing something at the moment ... And writing actually helps me to connect with characters. It’s been like a therapy process. It’s something I do as an artist — I keep sketchbooks, I draw, I write.”

It’s clear we’ll be seeing more of Joanne Hynes in the future — whether on the catwalk, the stage, the silver screen. Buckle up folks, it’s going to be a wild ride.

* Meet Joanne Hynes at Harvey Nichols, Dublin (01-2910488; www.harveynichols.com) as she showcases jewellery and key looks from her autumn/winter 2011 collection from 6-9pm on Thursday, November 3.

* Stockists: info@joannehynes.com.

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