“I now see that it was fermenting. Looking at it, I can see my work from before, my work in the theatre, feeding into this. And now it’s like it has come around full circle. It’s like everything I have done up this has led me to this collection.”
On April 6th Sinéad Roberts will launch her first fashion collection, aptly titled, The Collection. Though it is her debut, she enters the arena of commercial attire with a cornucopia of experience behind her. Establishing her company, The Costume Room in 2004, Sinéad is an artist in apparel, specialising in costume design for theatre, corporate and private events. With projects that span from the most creative to the most commercial, there is a can-do feeling to the company and indeed the owner. “Work is work. And you never say no to work.”
And work is where Sinéad got her start. “I’m self-taught,” she proclaims when relaying her background, “I never went to college.” While I interpreted this absence of formal training as yet another reason to marvel at the success and sartorial skill of the designer, Sinéad, in fact, sees this as something which initially worked against her.
“It’s funny I’ve always felt like I’ve been a little bit on the back foot because I didn’t have a college education. That would have affected my confidence for years. I think knowledge is power – if you can go to college, go to college. Life is experiential and so is college. The experience of being there, messing around with things, meeting different people and being influenced by them is so important. I missed out on that.”
Though she may have ‘missed out’ in terms of college, Sinéad was compensated somewhat, by being born into a hugely creative family. Parents and siblings alike, the Roberts family are makers through and through. Their careers’ loop through all junctions of the road of creativity and, having had the opportunities to collaborate with her siblings, Sinéad feels extremely lucky.
Her latest collaboration is the one at hand. The launch of her debut fashion collection will feature alongside that of her sister, Eimear Roberts’, first collection in jewellery. A series of firsts, Sinéad tells us of the transition from costume to clothing. “Some of it was a completely different process. But it is in the end still design.” Taking a leaf out of the book of McQueen, a designer whom she praises more than once, Sinéad talks about her method. “I treat a lot of fabrics the same. When I’m dealing with fancy lace, I don’t treat it like it is precious, it’s just fabric after all. And, at the end of the day we are not saving lives we are just making clothes”.
And though her garments are not in the same league as life and death, there is a vigour to each piece that can’t be ignored. Named lovingly after elders and idols, The Collection is saturated with personality. Statement structures, artisan forms and details in the design that allow each piece an individuality; it is with a manner which evades the intrusive.
An evolution of ego and ensemble, Sinéad talks me through the creation of the three kimono style jackets which grace her collection. “The jackets were basically one design using three different fabrics. As it turned out, the three different fabrics made the jackets fall in three different ways. That was a little bit of a revelation for me. It wasn’t planned, but I like to work from and organic place. So, throughout the process, you just have to go with it and see what happens.” Organically embedding herself in her works of the sartorial, the designer sees herself in her creations. “The three jackets are like three different me’s. And, for the wearer, three different ways that you want to go about your business.”
The Collection is gender neutral. Another decision which came organically to Sinéad, this was not initially in the grand design. “To be honest the gender neutral thing is a label I stuck on it a little bit later.” Sinéad pauses slightly before continuing. “Although, one of the guys, Otis, the tattooed guy. Well, while I was creating the collection I asked if he’d be one of my models. That was two years ago, so I guess I did have it in mind but I just wasn’t ready to put a label on it. I wanted to be free and easy with it and feel like I still am. As I said I work from an organic place so I knew if I put restrictions on myself, it wouldn’t turn out to be what it is supposed to be.”
Though she is free from restrictions, Sinead has her eye on her ethics, wanting to promote a culture of slow fashion with her work. “I see the pieces being handed down,” she pauses and then laughs slightly, “Well, I’d like them to be anyway. The pieces are made to last.”
Reflecting then on matters outside of just finery she says: “The whole thing with fast fashion is, everything is fast now. We can’t stand at bus stops without looking at our phones. I really miss my pre-internet brain. When you could just goof off, space out. You weren’t contactable all the whole time.”
Hoping to create a gateway with her garments, Sinéad’s pieces do exude a timelessness. With inspiration taken from Japanese Noh Theatre. Feathers which have been donned by flappers, flamboyants and faux natives alike. And shirt collars which rearrange our notions of gender, masculinity and the working stiff, Sinéad Roberts’ works can be easily embedded into many a time and place.
With the launch fast approaching, feelings of exposure and apprehension are starting to simmer. “As I said, the whole thing has been a long time coming. It’s been fermenting for years. So now, for us, it is a time celebrate. It is a time for new beginnings and the start of something new for us.”
The Collection launches on April 6th in the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery.
Words: Sinead O’Reilly