From The Straits Times    |

Photos: Scott Trindle, Alex Franco

Besides the famed Guinness stout, their rugby prowess and a large list of musicians that include U2, Enya and Sinead O’Connor, Ireland is also known for Saint Patrick’s Day that falls yearly on March 17.

While the day is known as an occasion to dress up in green and drink substantial amounts of alcohol, its origins mark the death of the patron saint, who was credited as the one who brought Roman Catholicism to the island.

But beyond these facets of Irish culture, another gateway to understanding and appreciating what the country has to offer is to look at the fashion designers that the nation has produced.

Here are seven you need to know.


1. Jonathan Anderson


Thank you @helenmirren for your support with the Loewe craft prize xxxx

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Known for his unique take to fashion that combines elements of both menswear and womenswear, 35-year-old Jonathan Anderson from Magherafelt, Northern Ireland is slowly, but surely, making his way up in the fashion world. Trained at the London College of Fashion, he started his eponymous label, JW Anderson, in 2008 focusing on menswear and later introduced womenswear in 2010.

Since then, his popularity skyrocketed and his idiosyncratic view had garnered him numerous accolades that included the British Fashion Council’s Menswear Brand of the Year and Womenswear Brand of the Year in 2015, the first brand to win both awards in the same year. Jonathan had also collaborated with other brands including Topshop, Uniqlo and Converse, to great success.

In 2013, French luxury conglomerate LVMH bought a minority stake in his label, and as part of the deal, Jonathan was appointed creative director of Spanish brand Loewe. Under his leadership, the leather label has seen multiple commercial successes, including the Puzzle, Gate and Hammock bags, which have since become iconic.

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Jonathan described JW Anderson as more of “a social aggravator”, whereas Loewe “is about riffs on classicism”.


2. Simone Rocha

Despite having famed designer John Rocha as her father, Dublin-born Simone Rocha has paved her own success since launching her brand in 2010 after completing her master’s at Central Saint Martins. Known for her unconventional designs and use of materials that defy established feminine notions, the 32-year-old has been widely celebrated.

Harper’s Bazaar presented her with the Young Designer of the Year award in 2014, and the British Fashion Awards lauded her as the Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2016.


SS19 Collection shot by @jessejjenkins #simonerocha

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Known for her playful aesthetics, Simone draws inspiration from various sources. Take her Spring/Summer 2019 collection for example. An imitation copy of portraits from the Tang dynasty sparked the use of such iconography in the collection, while the Qingming festival (her father is Hong Kong-born) inspired the use of laced veils and hats.


3. Phillip Treacy


@salmahayek and Stefan Bartlett at the opening of the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the @vamuseum in London.

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If you had watched the British royal weddings, you might have found yourself wondering about the curious headwear that adorned the guests’ heads. Those are called fascinators and many of them would have probably been created by this man: 51-year-old Philip Treacy OBE from Ahascragh, Ireland.


Happy Birthday to HRH The Duchess of Sussex, who wore a Philip Treacy hat earlier today at a wedding in Surrey.

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The haute couture milliner, or hat-designer, is a five-time winner of the British Accessory Designer of the Year by the British Fashion Awards, and has worked with fashion houses like Chanel and Givenchy and created works for Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. His creations range from sophisticated and elegant to avant-garde and downright outlandish.




4. Richard Malone


Outtake @richardmalone for @britishfashioncouncil

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Sustainability is at the core of Richard Malone’s work that involves bright colours across the spectrum and a heavy use of sculptural details and modern tailoring that flatter the female body. The 27-year-old hails from a small town called Wexford, Ireland and works with Indian female artisans from Tamil Nadu who weave recycled yarns and dye them naturally by hand.

In his SS’19 collection that he showed at the recent London Fashion Week, the 2013 LVMH Grand Prix Scholarship winner used Econyl, a fabric made from recycled nylon that can be continually recycled, and an environmentally friendly silk from Italian manufacturer Taroni (who also produces fabric for Prada). Bold designs that are green too? We approve.


5. Paul Costelloe

With over thirty years of experience, Paul Costelloe claims to be one of the most recognisable brandsfrom Ireland and the United Kingdom — and he has an impressive track record to back up the claim. He studied at the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris, was personal designer to the late Princess Diana, and created the uniforms for British Airways and the Irish Olympic Team in 2004.

Feminine and wearable backed with quality materials and an attention to details, the family-run business led by Paul has since grown to include menswear, homewares and eyewear.


6. Helen Steele

If you love colours and prints, Helen Steele is your go-to. The fashion designer from Monaghan, Ireland uses colour theory and graffiti art to produce — by hand — psychedelic and kaleidoscopic prints and patterns on lux materials like silk and cashmere.

The result? Loud yet wearable pieces that are not for the faint-hearted. The brand has fans that hail as far as the United States and the Middle East.

More than just a riot of colours, inclusivity is also important to the designer. Helen has partnered with Irish retail chain Dunnes Stores to create a 21-piece line of stylish athleisure wear. The collection employs smart fabrics and her signature use of colour, and sizes go up to UK Size 18 to ensure the pieces fit various body types.


7. Natalie B. Coleman


Thank you for the @idi_ireland IDI Irish Design Awards #idiawards @ncad_dublin #wearingirish #fashionandtextiles

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When Natalie Coleman isn’t busy being a design ambassador to Microsoft Ireland, or teaching at the National College of Art and Design, or studying part time for a Master’s in Philosophy at Trinity College in Dublin, or being a mother to two, the tireless Monaghan native designs clothings that diverge from the usual feminine shapes.

She also partners with local family weavers Molloy & Sons in Donegal to create fabrics that are used extensively, with unusual methods and designs, to create her works.