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WATCH: Her Dark Materials – avant-garde Irish designer Úna Burke takes the JAGUAR F-PACE electric hybrid for a night drive around the city

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By Lizzie Gore-Grimes
21st Aug 2023
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Eilish McCormick

WATCH: Her Dark Materials – avant-garde Irish designer Úna Burke takes the JAGUAR F-PACE electric hybrid for a night drive around the city

Jaguar has been making dramatically beautiful cars since 1935. To celebrate the stealth beauty of the F-PACE electric hybrid, we invited fashion designer Úna Burke to take it for a spin around the city for a night shoot with Irish model of the moment, Shuhan Yan.

Growing up on a farm in Roscommon and dreaming about fashion models wearing her designs, 15-year-old Úna Burke could never have predicted that her very first commission as a fashion designer would be for Lady Gaga.

A family of makers

“It all began with my mum, Tina,” begins Úna, “she was a domestic science teacher, who showed me how to hand-sew and machine-sew. Mum taught me lots of crafts, such as knitting, embroidery, quilling, crochet, applique, felt-making, upholstering, etc. It was a great base for me to start from when I came to start on my path in this industry.”

Úna’s Mum and her Granny (also a professional seamstress) both loved leather too. “I was always amused to find the pair of them sniffing leather purses in the corners of craft shops as we holidayed around Ireland,” says Úna.

“They insisted I come over and join them, they called it ‘the smell of quality’ and from that moment I was hooked. And leather has been my material of choice to work with ever since.” Úna’s family connection with leather did not stop there. Her father, John, came from a long line of shoemakers. “I inherited one of Grandad Burke’s trusty hand-tools, his awl, and I use it almost every day in my studio.”

“I feel blessed to have been handed on the values of a craftsperson from both sides of my family.”

Fashion dreams made real

Jaguar

From dreaming up designs in her bed at night, Úna went on to study fashion at Limerick School of Art and Design, driven by a passion for working with leather, it was her collection of figurative art pieces made for her Masters Degree at the London College of Fashion that got her noticed. “I couldn’t believe it when (my first) commission came from Lady Gaga no less! It was a hooded bodysuit with boots, arm braces and a face mask. It was a whirlwind time, but such a high.”

Úna’s unique design pieces have been worn and commissioned by some of the world’s most famous names including Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Heidi Klum, Daphne Guinness, Madonna, Phillip Lim and more.

Totems of inner strength

Úna finds inspiration in so many places. “I am inspired by human stories of resilience, strength and positivity in the face of adversity. I am endlessly impressed by the strength of the human spirit. I make wearable objects – totems for the release of inner strength.

Jaguar

“One of my ambitions for my work is that the person who wears a piece that I make, will feel like the best possible version of themselves. These are the words used in a thank you card that I received from a customer in Trinidad who I made a bridal bustier for a few years ago, and it epitomised exactly how I would like everyone who wears an Úna Burke piece to feel, emboldened to harness their inner strength.”

Clearly Úna is on to something as her unique design pieces have been worn and commissioned by some of the world’s most famous names including Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Heidi Klum, Daphne Guinness, Madonna, Phillip Lim and more. With costume pieces worn by Cindy Crawford and Ellen Pompeo in Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games and Michelle Yeoh in Star Trek Discovery.

Irish creatives to watch

After 13 years spent living and working in London, Úna is now back in her native Roscommon, with her partner Emmett and their two children.

“I love being back home. There is so much creative talent in Ireland right now,” says Úna. “Joseph Walsh, of course, leaps first to mind. A self-trained international craft and design icon, the quality and magnitude of his work is extraordinary. And it’s not just his boundless creative vision and execution to be celebrated but also his business drive, with the running of his annual creativity symposium, “Making In” which brings the international art craft and design scene to a tiny corner of Ireland.

Jaguar

In the fashion, jewellery and millinery realm, Úna name checks Helen Cody, Nigel O’Reilly, Natalie B Coleman, Vanessa Ree, Niamh Gillespie of Tidings, Margaret O’Connor, and Helena Malone as just some of the Irish designers and skilled craftspeople she admires most.

Which celebrity client next?

Next up for Úna Burke? “I’m working on a capsule collection of new body pieces to be shown at the end of September during Paris Fashion Week along with our current offering of handbags, bracelets and belts. I’m also working on another exciting costume commission but can’t reveal any details for another few months…”

Going by Úna’s prestigious pedigree of celebrity clients to date, we can’t wait to see who will be next!

Photography by Eilish McCormick
Videography by Dan Dunne

Jaguar has made dramatically beautiful luxury cars since 1935, driven by its passion to make life more extraordinary for its customers. From 2025 Jaguar will become a pure electric modern luxury brand with a dramatically beautiful new portfolio of emotionally engaging designs and pioneering next-generation technologies. The journey towards electrification is already under way with a range of mild and plug-in hybrid and full electric models available today.