Irish designers are not just blowing glass, knitting jumpers and weaving baskets, they’re also dressing some of the world’s biggest names
Galway man and master milliner, Philip Treacy is no stranger to the stars. To name drop just a little, in his time in the spotlight, he has decorated the heads of Sarah Jessica Parker, Grace Jones and Dita Von Teese.
Lady Gaga has Treacy to thank for some of her iconic looks, including the famous telephone hat in her music video for Telephone. Gaga even opened Treacy’s Michael Jackson-themed show at London Fashion Week in September 2012 declaring the Irish designer to be “The greatest milliner of all time”.
And, to top it off, according to a report in Vogue, there were rumours that she wanted to intern at the milliner’s London-based company. How’s that for kudos?
A little less “out there”, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, is a fan of Dublin-born Orla Kiely and has been photographed wearing her pieces many times. The designer’s distinct prints are recognisable all over the world, and her handbags adorn the arms of women everywhere from Tokyo to Tipperary.
Television and music icons
From real royalty to TV royalty, Don O’Neill from Ballyheigue, County Kerry, has had the honour of seeing the queen of the chat show, Oprah Winfrey, wearing his creation at the Oscars, as well as on the cover of her magazine O. Don recalls it was a “huge deal” to dress living legend Oprah; and the glittering, gold dress from O’Neill’s Theia label was compared to the Oscar statuette itself.
Away from Academy Award duties, Oprah’s not the only star donning his wares – American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has also worn one of his Theia dresses on stage recently in Brazil.
Of course, between handbag designer Pauric Sweeney (favoured by Jessica Biel and Jennifer Lopez) to esteemed womenswear designer Louise Kennedy (who has counted Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue and Meryl Streep among her clients), it’d be easy to think that Irish fashion was all about the here and now.
But delve a little into the past, and you’ll find iconic Irish designers with big reputations. Take Sybil Connolly. X Files star Gillian Anderson opted for a little vintage style for the Bafta Awards in 2012 when she donned an outfit by the late Irish designer.
Connolly, who died in 1998, was named in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame back in 1965. On top of that, one of her dresses was worn by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis when she sat for her official White House portrait. Jackie O also visited Connolly during a visit to Ireland in 1967, and the highlights of her collection can be seen in the Newbridge Silver Museum of Style Icons.
While Ireland’s more established designers are widely acknowledged, up-and-coming geniuses are getting their designs seen in all the right places. Fashion icon Daphne Guinness, singers PJ Harvey, Paloma Faith and Sinéad O’Connor, actress Saoirse Ronan and supermodel Jacquetta Wheeler have all worn Joanne Hynes’s work, given that she is a perfect of example of edgy, modern Irish design.
Newcomer Una Burke has dressed performers including Rihanna, Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga. Gaga also wore a design by Offaly-born Sorcha O'Raghallaigh, who was chosen by London department store Selfridges as one of their Bright Young Things. And don't forget to keep an eye out for JW Anderson, favoured by Kirsten Dunst and Alexa Chung, whose collection in Topshop scored big critical acclaim in 2012.
Ireland by design? You bet.