AS LONDON Fashion Week descends upon England’s capital, Irish fashion designers and labels prepare to offer their biggest turnout to date at the style extravaganza.
Approximately 60 runway shows will feature on the LFW schedule showcasing Spring/Summer collections for 2014 this week.
And this season features the highest number of Irish designers yet — from industry stalwarts Orla Kiely and Paul Costelloe to emerging stars Una Burke and Liam Fahy.
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Among them, four London-based Irish designers will show catwalk collections, three of which will take place in the official British Fashion Council show space at Somerset House.
As London becomes the style centre of the world from September 13–17, Ireland’s Zoë Jordan will launch proceedings on day two with the 9am slot — a remarkable feat for a designer on only her third collection.
The young artist, who has already been shortlisted for the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund, claims her S/S14 collection is inspired by the 1990s, so definitely one to look out for.
Adopted Dubliner John Rocha is a regular on the international fashion scene whose catwalk designs combine drama with romanticism.
His Spring/Summer collections are never straightforward, often with baroque sensibilities, so more of that unique style can be expected on the London stage this week.
Elsewhere J W Anderson, who began his career as a menswear designer, has made an easy transition into womenswear, which has marked him out as a considerable talent on the schedule.
His unisex take on design has seen him successfully collaborate with Topshop on two occasions, and as a winner of the Emerging Talent Award at the British Fashion Awards 2012, his show will be eagerly anticipated by the industry.
Another rising talent is Simone Rocha, a graduate of Ireland’s notable National College of Art and Design.
Since completing her MA at London’s reputable Central Saint Martins’ College of Art and Design, her label is maturing into a prominent and desirable addition to the scene.
Rocha’s take on femininity is considered and slightly off kilter, making her show one of the hottest tickets of the season.
Designers also use the LFW schedule to showcase presentations or salon shows, rather than stage a catwalk.
Two Irish labels to look out for utilising this format this week are Orla Kiely and Paul Costelloe.
Until recently Costelloe’s was the opening catwalk show of the event, but this year he will debut his collection on the final day.
As the elder statesman of Irish fashion, with a dedicated following, it’s an interesting shift for the influential designer, who undoubtedly continues to influence the next generation of design students, both in Ireland and internationally.
Last season Orla Kiely used the salon show to great effect with a quirky ‘typing pool’ installation, so expectations are similarly high for her 2014 outing.
In February 2010 the BFC launched a unique digital aspect to part of their official LFW schedule that brings together live streamed shows and fashion films.
Featured on this selection for the first time is Irish and English design duo Teatum Jones.
This marks another departure for the label, announced as the Center for Fashion Enterprise 2013 ‘Venture Designers’, and their Spring/Summer 14 presentation and film ‘Jacquie and Mary Ellen’ will be shown on Sunday, September 15 at 1.30pm in the Cannon Cinema and Presentation Space in Somerset House.
As well as catwalk shows, film and presentations, Somerset House is also home to the Designer Showrooms throughout LFW.
This year shoe designer Liam Fahy and womenswear talent Danielle Romerill are exhibiting as part of the showroom lineup, where new labels hope to attract buyers and media attention.
Dublin-born Romerill states that this, her third season since graduating from the Royal College of Art, is inspired by ‘bubble wrap, sticky tape and Irish cubist artist, Mainie Jellet.
Irish designers are also participating in events taking place outside the official LFW programme.
Among that fringe, hotly tipped, fashion- forward menswear designer, Alan Taylor, has been selected by Selfridges as part of its annual ‘Bright Young Things’ initiative, which brings together 15 young creatives.
His work will be visible in one of their renowned window displays throughout LFW and sold exclusively through the Selfridges website.
Úna Burke’s leatherwear will be the focus of a fashion performance held on the opening night of LFW at Windle and Moodie’s hair salon, in West London.
The collaboration with millinery label House of Flora and Eelko Mooder, entitled A Surrealist London Fashion Week Wardrobe Dilemma, will be performed by dancer Mirjam Sögner.
Ultimately, London will be awash this week with the best of Irish design and fashion talent showcasing their wares in a range of formats — each the culmination of months of research, sampling, design and production.
So there is plenty to look out for as the Irish stake their claim on the London stage and the unique window it offers them to present their stylish offerings to the fashion industry at large.
Gemma Williams is an Irish communications graduate currently living in London.
Since completing an MA in Fashion Curation she has worked for the Fashion Museum, Antwerp and the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York.
She curated the 2012/13 programme of exhibitions and events at Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion.
This year she launched her Rian exhibition, showcasing emerging Irish designers, at the Embassy of Ireland in London, Rian is currently touring internationally.