Stacey Wall – the sole Irish designer to score a place on Peroni’s Fashion Studio programme – conjures up her creative approach for AW19.
“I studied knitwear and really like making textiles, but I wasn’t too into garments with a flimsy finish; I always preferred wovens”
When The House of Peroni announced its plans to merge a mentorship scheme with an impressive studio space, devising a seven-month programme that would spawn an on-schedule appearance at London Fashion Week, it’s little wonder that prospective candidates flocked from across the UK. After whittling down all manner of enthused entrants, eight designers were chosen for their inherent individualism and thirst for self-improvement; a new generation primed to take the emerging-talent baton that (Christopher) Kane and (Mary) Katrantzou once clutched. Debuting a Creative Council that was crammed with industry heavyweights – including the talent-spotting eyes of Pandora Sykes, Anna Orsini and Jonathan Saunders – The Fashion Studio programme was embraced as the latest addition to London’s ever-evolving incubator hubs, the veterans of which range from On|Off to Fashion East. Considering the city’s ongoing love affair with Irish creatives – Simone Rocha and Richard Malone, among many others, command rapt attention each fashion month – it comes as no surprise that a Cork-born, Central Saint Martins-trained designer landed a coveted spot on the scheme.
Before getting to know the character behind the cloth, I first became acquainted with Stacey Wall through her graduate collection. At first glance, these garments looked like a masterclass in design dexterity: multi-layered silhouettes that screamed tactility, tulle and lace in shades of rich red and luscious cream. Rather than absorb them from afar as they floated down a catwalk, The House of Peroni staged a static exhibition of Wall’s pieces over the summer, allowing Irish fashion admirers a 360° scan of her work. It quickly became clear that her creative ethos was in harmony with London’s most celebrated young designers, Irish or otherwise, as her ability to weave compelling narratives through the medium of clothes was unmistakable.
I spoke with Wall around the start of her time with Peroni. At that stage, she had clocked up several weeks in their streamlined design studio and commenced one-on-one meetings with mentors – she was fresh from a sit-down with Jonathan Saunders when I rang. Having only graduated from CSM the year before, Wall acknowledged that the whole process “happened very fast. One of my college tutors sent through the Fashion Studio link, I sent through some work to Peroni – a portfolio and so forth – and after I got through to the next round, I sent some more stuff over. That was it, really.” Her exposure to the industry’s inner workings arrived before emerging from fashion college, when she cut her teeth with Charles Jeffrey – a fellow CSM alumnus who was catapulted to acclaim when his label, Loverboy, was still in its infancy. Having hurtled from internship to final BA collection to fashion programme, Wall was thrilled “not to have had a lull – it keeps the momentum going.” Considering London’s faster-than-fast pace in its creative sectors – but especially within the sartorial side of things – thriving on that velocity is integral.
Fast forward several months later, when Wall is in the midst of finalising her new-season collection through the Fashion Studio, and her initial fervour doesn’t seem to have faltered. “I couldn’t hope to have gotten any more [from the past few months] than what I already have,” she states, her excitement palpable. In a city infamous for studios with a tight square meterage (a London friend once did an unpaid fashion internship in a triangular room – if you cut the corners off, her boss said, the rent dips) the House of Peroni’s kit-out couldn’t be further removed. Expansive, white work desks, serving as the perfect blank canvas, meant each designer could comfortably spread out their work, coming and going as they pleased. With most of the entrants balancing a full-time job with studio hours, this flexible timetable was a godsend – not to mention proof of their inexhaustible work ethic. “The shared studio space really worked because our [creative visions] are all so different,” Wall affirms, her fellow participants’ tastes stretching from modern baroque / botany (Rose Danford-Philips) to science-infused, oversized design (Hannah Wallace). In addition to this, “the studio was really well-equipped with machines, and we also had a studio manager who was a pattern-cutter. Being able to consult with her made life so much easier. You wouldn’t really have that luxury anywhere else.”
For a collection’s final touches, Wall thrives off the stress of the fashion calendar – “back in September, when the collection launch was ages away, I was actually more panicked” – but she has coupled this attitude with a meticulous research process. Her graduate collection, harking back to her Irish heritage, was steeped in carefully-sourced findings of folk groups – “the Straw Boys and Wren Boys.” Other, secondary inspiration sources were found closer to home, in the most literal sense – one of her textiles started out life as the carpet in her granddad’s home. “That’s definitely being whipped out again for AW19,” Wall laughs. From day one with Peroni, she knew she wanted to sustain this dialogue of folklore in her designs, and “The Fashion Studio has really affirmed what I was doing before. With my graduate collection, even though it was well received, there was a lot of things I wanted to resolve with it – and now that I’ve had the time and space with this collection, I feel like I’ve been able to do that.” The programme will culminate, as previously stated, with an on-schedule slot at London Fashion Week – rather than put on a show or presentation, however, the designers will be setting up in the British Fashion Council’s showrooms. This move makes sense considering just how diverse each participant’s work is – “getting everyone under the one, big Peroni banner [in a presentation] would be challenging, as you’d have to someone tailor it to all eight of us. With a showroom, you have more control. After this programme ends, I’d much rather organise something that shows my process and research books, rather than a presentation, so that I can show more of the ideas behind the collection.”
With AW19 only days away from unveiling, Wall has taken her defining technique – a fresh take on fabric-weaving that debuted in her BA work – to unprecedented heights. “I studied knitwear and really like making textiles, but I wasn’t too into garments with a flimsy finish; I always preferred wovens. So I started pleating [the textiles] through the domestic knit machine – the effect changes with every type of fabric you put through it.” She also cites the UCD archives, replete with hundreds of images from folk Ireland throughout the years, as a bottomless feed of influence for her. “Aisling Farinella [Thread editor and fashion stylist] introduced me to her cousin who works there, and he sent through some links. I don’t think I’ll ever have to research again, to be honest!”
Life post-Peroni hasn’t left her mind, since she’ll have an established label minus the studio once this programme concludes – but the future looks promising, with Wall exhibiting all the right qualities of a NEWGEN or Fashion East candidate. Each mentor has been indispensable for their council and expertise, but Alexander Fury – Fashion Features Director of AnOther Magazine and Men’s Critic of the Financial Times – has proved especially significant to her, with his well-founded encouragement and willingness to help showcase her work. Fury’s revered insights are the perfect blend of wit and worldly references, beloved across the four fashion capitals and beyond – so he knows a striking designer when he sees one. “There’s something distinct, unique, about [Stacey’s] clothes,” Fury explains, “a melding of traditional techniques, which speak very much about her Irish heritage, with a modern sense of what women will want to wear. Her work feels fresh and new. Hers is the kind of talent that gets you really excited about fashion.”
Words: Amelia O’Mahony-Brady