A Note on Modern Irish Design

20.03.2020 | Blog , Fashion | BY:

What is modern Irish design? For a such a small island nation, it’s a complex answer. There mightn’t be an obvious linear evolution of what we might consider a region’s design history, in the way we can trace design movements in say, Germany, Scotland or Sweden. Instead, there exists a rich heritage of crafting and making, which, over time, has resulted in an aesthetic that is rich, roughly hewn and distinctly Irish. 

This is not to say that Irish fashion designers can be described as a neat coterie. Modern Irish designers are just as likely to be influenced by the wild craggy cliff faces of the west as they are the urban grit of Limerick city; they reference folkloric narrative, as Simone Rocha did for SS’20 when she reimagined the Wren boys with their gaudy painted faces and straw suits; and they pursue the horrors that emerged from the sinister allegiance of Church and State, the tentacles of which still grip some parts of modern Ireland, as Roisin Pierce’s explored in her debut collection Mná ì bhláth (Women In Bloom).

Underpinning this storytelling is the tangible history of textile making that can be found in nearly every corner of the country. Linen from Derry, lace from Carrickmacross, tweed from wild north-west Donegal, and of course, Irish wools. These ancient traditions of weaving and spinning are both ancient and thoroughly modern, at risk of being a dying art yet vital to the industry well beyond the borders within they are created. Ahead of her SS’20 collection for Alexander McQueen, designer Sarah Burton decamped to Northern Ireland for several days to study the techniques of local textile makers. 

And what of the next generation of designers? The aesthetic of the young Irish designers poised on the edge of the industry cannot be contained in a few words. It is a motely mix, a heady combination of Celtic tradition and ‘foreign’ influence; for this is no longer the homogenous Catholic nation it was half a century ago.

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Talent Watch: Sophie Harris-Taylor

05.02.2010 | Art , Blog | BY:

Who: Sophie Harris-Taylor, 21, Londo
What: Photographer

On her work: “I use a documentary process to capture the lives of the people closest to me. I like looking at the mundane – moments of intimacy, vulnerability, boredom.”

Influences: “My friends – I love the intimacy I share with the people I photograph, every one of them inspires me to take more and more images.”

Inspiration: “Nan Goldin and the painter Gerhard Richter have definitely inspired me the most over the years. More recently I’ve been looking at the incredible work of Maarit Hotheri and Nigel Shaffran.”

Sophie’s favourite photographs: “I change my mind on a daily basis. At the moment I’m working on my first book – these are the first images I’ve chosen to start the book – I haven’t got bored of these yet!” (See above and below)

Not many people know: “I don’t actually know how to use cameras!”


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Boy (talent) watch: Grant Thomas

27.01.2010 | Art , Blog | BY:

Who: Grant Thomas, 17, London
What: Fashion photographer

On his work: “Some of my best ideas for shoots have come from the most mundane situations. The other day I was smoking on the ledge of a second storey window with Debbie [his stylist] and I decided to base a shoot on that.”

Influences: “The insanely talented Sebastian Kim, and the few close friends I surround myself with.”

Grant’s favourite photograph: “I’m a sucker for liking my most recent work – so at the moments it’s an image of the strong-faced model, Georgia Davies (below). She’s standing tough, but elegantly, wearing a vintage floral dress, a white leather corset and the tallest shoes known to man. Truly good photos have the ability to make me cry – so I like people to feel something from my photography too.”

Not many people know: Grant’s originally from Wales and moved to London by himself when he was 16 years old.

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Talent watch: Somang Lee

12.11.2009 | Art , Blog | BY:

Who: Somang Lee, 27, Stuttgart
What: Illustrator
Where: Royal College of Art

Somang says: “There is a certain magic about illustration. It allows you to tap into things that go under the surface; inner worlds that you can take from a piece of paper. One of the pieces of my work pictured is taken from a series I did called ‘An Arctic Tale’ (picture above), which were displayed at the Bargehouse earlier this year.  The other is part of a series of etchings inspired by Jonathan Safran Foe’s novel ‘Extremely loud and incredibly close’ (below). This was an exploration of two people who are physically close but have vast inner distances to cross to be truly close to each other.”

Inspiration: Stories – writing combined with illustration make the perfect pair.
Not many people know: Somang takes ‘Free the inner voice’ classes to explore the subconscious in her voice and to help connect with her inner self, which she can then express through her illustrations.


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Talent Watch: Alice Moloney

30.10.2009 | Art , Blog | BY:

Who: Alice Moloney, 22, London
What: Illustrator
Where: Royal College of Art

Alice says: “This watercolour portrait (pictured) is from a series entitled ’10 til 3′. It’s based on a week spent at Newent House Day Centre for the elderly. My final degree show piece is based on criminals. I like the fact that you can never tell who really is evil, and who isn’t, just by looking at mug shots. Some of the characters look completely innocent, but they’re not.”

Influences: Marlene Dumas and Uwe Wittwer.

Obsession: Collecting unicorns, vintage glasses and old photographs from car-boot sales.

Projects: Illustrating a set of commissioned books; one of which is based on the county of Middlesex.


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