As we wrap a transformative decade – on all fronts – an octet of Dublin’s sartorial movers and shakers talk progressions, regressions and teeing up the 2020s.
Deirdre McQuillan Fashion Editor The Irish Times, Freelance feature writer and author
“This decade was started off by the death of McQueen. Things have changed gigantically since then. The way in which social media is changing the fashion landscape; the increasing use of Instagram as a marketing tool; the dominance of the big corporations; the whole issue of sustainability. I think the whole world is in turmoil, fashion included. The growing awareness of the price of fast fashion is very important. That argument of buying clothes that cost so little, mean so little, yet are contributing so greatly to landfill. There’s also that continuing threat to glossy magazines, but there are so many niche fashion publications now, like Vestoj… they’re not gone yet!
“Every year, I go up and see the graduates at NCAD before their show, and I’ve seen a huge change in what they tell me: if you had asked them, ten years ago, what their influences were, they would’ve said Alexander McQueen, Comme Des Garçons. But since Simone Rocha dedicated her first collection to her grandmother, they’re looking back to their Irish roots, which is a major shift. Now, they’ve [embraced] the idea that your own heritage – both your personal background and your country’s history – is a rich, rich well from which to draw.”
Sarah Doyle Visual Artist
“Thinking about this past decade has brought back a lot of happy memories. I worked on so many great projects with wonderful people. You forget, because the cycle of fashion is always focused on the next thing; you keep ploughing on, particularly when you’re self-employed.
“I think Aisling Farinella is the hero of this industry. She stands out, she’s magical, she just really means it. Fashion can be attractive for different reasons to different people, but it comes from her DNA: she cares so deeply, and is always about championing talents and connecting it all together.
“Growth can be a real challenge here, because there’s a lack of investment. And while things were certainly bleak around the recession, there was a great sense of fun [creatively speaking]. People weren’t as self-conscious because things weren’t as documented, it was just before the assault of ‘everything must be shown’, so I think people were naturally a bit more daring. At the same time, we had this mass exodus: so many people leaving, that was pretty bad..
“Often it feels that now, people don’t allow or, worse, don’t even get the chance to let something develop because they’re so quick to get it out, so you wonder if the work is getting to the most interesting place.”
Nikki Creedon Owner, Havana
“Fashion, in my opinion, has changed enormously over the past decade. We have seen an enormous change in younger, less well known designers heading up major fashion houses, i.e Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga / Vestments and Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent.
“Street fashion has become more important for fashion followers than magazines. Everyone wants everything instantly. There’s a huge importance on influencers: they promote the trends, and play a [pivotal part] in sales. On a personal basis, I’ve experienced living with one daughter and three step daughters, who have clothes coming through the door on a weekly basis; paying pittance for bad quality clothes, claiming it is social suicide to be seen In the same dress twice on Instagram (this is such a major problem that I don’t see changing).
“Havana is a small, independent retailer that has been in business for 25 years – now, the Internet and social media play an essential part of the store’s image and sales, so they have to be part of everyday business. As a bricks and mortar business, service is key to keeping successful. Accessories have become huge. Obviously branding [also], but I think this might change.”
Aileen Carville CEO/Founder, SKMMP
“Fashion has undergone immense transition over the past ten years. The traditional Fashion Week platform is still very important, but how business is done is changing season by season. Stockholm Fashion Week, for example, have cancelled ‘Fashion Week’ in exchange for a fully digitised event; something SKMMP is helping SFW figure out for their Designers wholesale campaign.
“Digitisation offers designers a global market, and yet the consumer wants to understand the origin and provenance of the collection. Expectations around a sustainable fashion supply chain is prompting designers to examine their core brand values, how collections are manufactured, shipped, consumed and resold into the growing pre-loved designer market.
“For SKMMP, one of the key takeaways from LFW and PFW was the short and ‘honest’ supply chain Irish designers work from. Realistically, this is a default due to volume and sales generated, but it is becoming a more attractive proposition for bigger exclusive retailers that want to champion the smaller supplier.
“Buyer behaviour during fashion week sales appointments has changed completely – buyers have less time to discover and order collections, and yet they need to fulfill their budgets for the season ahead. Services such as SKMMP’s (online showroom solutions [catering to] multi-brand showrooms and in-house designer sales teams) fit into this new model to support change and efficiency.”
Ruth Ni Loinsigh Owner, Om Diva & Atelier 27
“I started Atelier 27 almost ten years ago, back in July 2011. For our opening night, we had about ten designers, most of which were recent graduates still honing their craft. We were all taking a leap of faith regarding how relatively unknown designers would be received, especially as we were in deep recession. It was soon apparent, however, that there was indeed an appetite for home grown design: around this time, other projects started up such as Create at Brown Thomas, Project 21 on South William St., The Design House etc. We gradually added more collections in order to evolve the Atelier into a destination for new and exciting Irish Design.
”Through the years, many designers such as Umit Kutluk, Colin Horgan, Sarah Murphy and many more have come to us with their graduate collections, then gone on to become some of the most sought-after names both nationally and internationally. We need to continue to increase our support of Irish designers, both new and established: Ireland is literally brim full of talented designers and makers across many disciplines. I feel this is just the beginning of a bright new era for Irish Design!”
Helen Steele Designer, Artist
“The fashion industry has changed beyond recognition this past decade but, as a whole, how we live is also vastly different. My suppliers contact me on Instagram now. I would say 60% of my business is conducted on Instagram, which sounds absolutely insane! Crazy stuff, but good. I know there are pluses and minuses with social media, but because of Instagram I’ve been able to grow my business in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to before; certainly from an international sales point of view, it’s been absolutely vital. We’re questioning the wholesale route n London and Paris – is it still as relevant when you’re able to sell directly to customers on social media?
“There really is a fashion revolution afoot: sustainability is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. When I launched with Dunnes Stores, what really blew my mind was that, with sportswear, what they create lasts. More than ever, I’m aware of what I produce, and that everything you make has to have a point. You don’t need to create 30 pieces per season, or buy into nonsense like ‘it needs to look like a full collection’ – you create each piece as a stand-alone, there’s no need for extras. Simply put, there doesn’t need to be so much stuff. I’m not saying ‘don’t buy!’ Just really think about it.”
Mark Quinn Founder, Baluba & BED Agency
“Irish Fashion in the 2010s has been something of a damp squib. We did couture in the ‘50s, Late Late Specials (thanks Gaybo) in the ‘80s and evening Supermodels in the ‘90s, but what’s the recent legacy?
”Unfortunately, what we haven’t done still easily overcomes what we have done. The industry has minimal government support or even a deep appreciation amongst the populace, retail innovation (not staying power) is sadly non-existent and everything moves too slowly. Even worse, we over celebrate moments that are as much accidental or suddenly appreciated in an international context.
“Derry lost its last shirt marker to a shrug of the shoulder and even linen – despite sustainability being the worlds biggest ‘buzzword’ – has yet to make a comeback. The Year of Irish Design came and went despite so much guff on the important of legacy.
“On the plus side, we appreciate local production more, we know we need to promote and protect Donegal Tweed to the Aran jumper, we are still producing talented graduates from underfunded educational institutions and I’ve not even mentioned Simone, Create or Dunnes Stores, but it could all be so much more. Talented milliners and jewellers continue to emerge and plough their own furrow, but Scotland or Denmark are far ahead (similar sizes states to our own) and having worked at Seoul and Bangkok Fashion week, we have a long way to go.
”I’m hopeful for change, but let’s start with a Design Council with clout and funding, some joined up thinking and less acceptance of mediocrity and maybe the next decade will burn brighter.”
“The shift in the perception, recognition and appreciation of Irish fashion over the last ten years has been monumental. This change of tide has been slowly, laboriously swept in by a wave of incredible talent, consistently reworking and reinvigorating notions of Irish identity and heritage and consolidating our contemporary relevance within the global fashion industry.
“Simone Rocha’s artistry and modern femininity, JW Anderson’s twisting of convention and Richard Malone’s heralding of the working woman, each firmly rooted in their Irish upbringing and identified as some of the most important designers and voices in global fashion industry today. Sinead Burke twirling onto the scene, advocating for design for all and shattering glass ceilings with glamorous flair. With pride, their achievements are celebrated as household names, but forging equally important paths in reimagining Irish fashion are the independents, graduates, photographers, stylists, creatives, activists, agencies and publishers pushing, challenging, progressing tirelessly over the last ten years.
”Thread, Franc, Junior… all and any DIY publishing have helped to evolve Irish fashion, nurturing the homegrown and creating connectivity with the international. There are so many highlights and bright lights. Andrew Nuding’s photography and Kieran Kilgallon’s styling. Designer Natalie B Coleman speaking at a UN Summit in Nairobi. Andrea Horan rallying fashion communities to Repeal the 8th. In the last six months alone IMMA, The National Gallery and the RHA, three of our major art institutions, have each taken initiative to collaborate and align with fashion audiences and industry. Fashion is open to all and for us all.
“To step back from it all and regard the achievements of such a tiny industry, the immense change forged over the last ten years and all without any real support structure, it’s the community, relationships, collaborations and overriding sense of who we are which will continue to drive us forward. Hopefully the future landscape of fashion to which we can contribute is one which will respect our planet, our mental health, celebrate our bodies and continue to reflect our ever-changing society.”
Words: Amelia O’Mahony Brady