Innovate and create to succeed
After celebrating 10 years of spotlighting emerging Irish design, Shelly Corkery, Fashion Director at Brown Thomas, looked to the future.
CREATE, the annual showcase enters its second decade on Tuesday with the goal of pushing for progress, a guiding principle that forms the basis of the buzzy slogan behind this year’s event. As the pandemic recedes and “business as usual” looks increasingly fruitful for companies, Corkery and the purchasing teams at large got together months ago to ask “who’s next? “
Corkery said: “This year had to be something different because if you don’t go in different directions it will end up being repetitive.”
The solution lies, as it always should, according to Corkery, in novelty. For the 2021 edition, 21 of the 33 participating designers appear for the first time. Across fashion, accessories, jewelry and housewares, the range encapsulates the most promising names of the next generation of Irish design.
After an intensive three-day interview process conducted on Zoom, the designers are carefully handpicked to exhibit their work on the first floor of Dublin’s flagship for a period of six weeks.
Corkery admits that while Zoom complicated the process as she was unable to smell the clothes, she asked participating designers to send samples of their work to the Grafton Street flagship store when it reopens in May. At this level of haute couture, she notes, tactility is priceless. The proof of the quality is as much in the fabric as in the identity of the brand.
While the pandemic has proven to be difficult for most, especially young designers, the cohort of talent in this year’s showcase are shining examples of resilience and triumph in the face of adversity.
“In some ways the past year has forced me to approach projects in a different way, and the results have been very positive,” said Fiona O’Neill, who showed at London Fashion Week earlier this year, counts Kendall Jenner as support. , and appears for the first time in the window.
O’Neill’s debut at CREATE will give buyers a taste of his playful work that draws on surrealism and optical illusions.
From trendy dresses to casual pants, she experiments with screen printing and hand painting to give the richly decorative garments a sense of the hand that made them.
The star of last year’s event Sorcha O’Raghallaigh worked with Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Madonna.
Lockdown gave him time to distill his ornate and extravagant vision to meet commercial viability without flouting the more artful flourishes that define his work.
“Even though it has been a difficult year, I really appreciated having more time to enjoy the overall part design and development process. “
She returns with captivating dresses in emerald green and pink, embellished with feather embroidery and decorated with dashing prints that boost mood. For Corkery, involving Ó’Raghallaigh again was a no-brainer, especially as buyers start to flock to more whimsical proposals.
For many Irish entrepreneurs, including some on display at this year’s event, the pandemic has fostered new beginnings. Many of the brands featured are born out of confinement and the desire to provide customers with something that respects their needs while trying to cheer them up.
At CREATE you can find Basic Juju’s hand-dyed hoodies with hand-embroidered positive messages, or Tidings, the brainchild of breed designer Niamh Gillespie, who imagines luxurious rolled up Italian silk scarves. by hand.
“Covid-19 was a moment in time the world will never forget, but it has positive sides,” said Johanna Dooley, the founder of ToDyeFor by Johanna, who founded her brand during the first lockdown.
“As the world stopped, I was able to take the time to assess the impact I wanted to have in the world. “
The idea, she said, was to create a clothing brand that invokes a sense of joy and happiness in wear by “adding color to those gray days that we all know all too well in Ireland all too well. by continuing to take small steps to design a better future ”. .
Since launching in 2020, Dooley’s tie-dye hoodies and accessories have captivated a large audience, including Irish entrepreneurs and influencers Rozanna Purcell and Niamh Cullen. Now they will find a home in a coveted retail space.
For Gabriella Malone, creating her own label has never been the plan. Originally, the recent graduate of the National College of Art & Design was looking for an internship at a fashion house, but when it all closed last year, she spent her time working hard on the development of the design, which led to the creation of his collection. From roomy silhouettes to skillful Aran knitting and a serene color palette that evokes the Irish seaside, Malone is definitely one to watch.
The lockdowns have also given her time to reflect on who she is and what she can bring to the table as a designer.
Much of this was presented in light of remote work fashion trends. “For a lot of us over the past year or so, we’ve only seen each other size up to Zoom, so I wanted to create some fun textures and silhouettes that would translate to a computer screen,” he said. she declared.
In 2021, the shoe stands out as an innovative category for CREATE. Brown Thomas welcomes Barbara Bennett, a 26-year-old from Galway, who has customized sneakers from Nike Air Force One to Nike Air Max 90, bringing an interesting twist to classic styles with her unique flair.
Meanwhile, Kevin Owens started Sneaker Cleaner out of high school. The precocious talent emphasizes longevity with his craft which sees him recycle shoes so they can be worn over and over again. Both reflect the store’s interest in improving its sustainability efforts.
Elsewhere in the line, there’s a considerably smaller jewelry production led by Yvonne Ryan’s eclectic and enduring styles. In the housewares department, Cushendale blankets appear alongside clean styles from Adam Frew Ceramics, glassware from Laura Quinn, scent pleasures from D8 Candle Co, and pretty dried flower arrangements from Paper Daisy.
In hat making, returning brand Leonora Ferguson extends her architectural prowess to hat making with interpretations on Carrickmacross lace and linen.
The opportunity to present at CREATE is invaluable for emerging talent.
The purchasing and visual merchandising teams provide mentoring to ensure the collections are ready for public use and for the next stage of their careers.
Additionally, designers are welcome to visit their booths to receive feedback from customers and sellers, in addition to watching how clothes move from the workshop to a client’s wardrobe.
“As a new brand, it brings credibility to our designs and the quality of the finish. This builds trust with new customers and we get invaluable feedback from buyers and customers at Brown Thomas, ”said Brendan McEvoy, co-founder of My Name is Ted, an accessories brand specializing in designs. which imitate the Georgian doors still present. in the capital.
Likewise, they produced HandySan, a line of hand sanitizer holders.
One of their notable discoveries over the past year is that the bags customers turned to were more compact than usual.
In turn, they have adapted their designs to meet these expectations.
“It’s surreal knowing that my collection will rub shoulders with some of the world’s biggest brands,” said Dooley, adamant that her work will be adjacent to that of Christian Dior, Loewe and Valentino.
For others, like O’Neill, it’s a personal accomplishment: “Growing up in Dublin, I’ve been imagining my designs in the store since I was a kid. It means the world to me to be able to do this. “
Malone echoed that sense of personal accomplishment. “This is my first commercial collection and debuting it at Brown Thomas during CREATE is such an amazing experience.”
While there were many applicants, this year’s selection process, sounded Corkery, “it was easy to do so brilliantly in front of me.”
She hopes people will come to the store to celebrate “innovation and flexibility, how people maneuvered through this difficult time and built fabulous collections during the lockdown, and how people diversified their production.”
- CREATE takes place at Brown Thomas Dublin from Tuesday July 6 to Tuesday August 17