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Image / Fashion

Helen Steele talks Irish Fashion


by IMAGE
25th Feb 2015
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Ahead of Kerry Fashion Week (fast becoming one of the most hotly anticipated fashion events in the country, gaining more and more momentum with every passing year), we’ve taken time out to sit down with last year’s Designer of the Year award and this year’s judge, Helen Steele, to talk Irish fashion and what she’s hoping to discover at KFW.

What will you be really looking out for at this year’s KFW?

As a judge at Kerry fashion week, i will be looking for new and original work that is of a professional and up to date standard.

Is Kerry becoming a leading authority on fashion?

I think Kerry fashion week has had a very positive impact on the Irish fashion industry, especially as it includes the whole island of Ireland in its awards.

You took home the award for Designer of the year last year, how has that changed things for you and your business?

Winning Designer of the year 2014 was brilliant, it has had a very positive impact on my business especially in Ireland. As I export 70% of what I produce, KFW has been very helpful in creating an awareness of my work nationally. In 2014 my sales in Ireland grew by 50%. KFW was also a good place to get to know new talent in the industry and it’s a good place to catch up with fellow designers, stylists, bloggers, make-up artists etc.

What separates Irish fashion from the rest of the world, would you say there is something that sets us apart?

For me what makes Irish fashion different to other countries is our wild originality in our style as individuals crossed with our capacity to adapt to change. For hundreds of years we have been creating beautiful unique knitwear, lace and tweed. These crafts our an integral part of our heritage. Our use of colour, hand sewing, pattern cutting, and in the last 70 years, machinists. All of these crafts people have a role to play in handing these traditions on to the next generation, but if all of our manufacturing is out sourced to China, India, Tunisia, Portugal, and our youth being educated to emigrate, then there will be a loss of part of our culture. Even if there could be a centre of excellence where garments could be manufactured, where the next generation can gain hands on experience. It would also be helpful as a small designer not to have to travel to the other side of the world to get your orders manufactured or find your order so far behind on the manufacturing schedule due to the fact that you’re small fry and a huge retail chain has jumped the queue leaving you with late or cancelled orders. A good example of best practice is Made in England, an incentive created in conjunction with the British fashion council and the English government breathing life into the old manufacturing industry in England by using excellent second hand machinery and dormant clothing factories in areas that had in the past had a thriving clothing manufacturing industry and employment, this scheme gave employment to both old and new machinists and has brought considerable funds into the UK economy. The same is happening in the USA,? in the last 5 years? the CFDA and American government have been responsible for bringing back 40 % of its clothing manufacturing to America. It’s all so possible to do here. Rant over.

What are you working on in 2015?

2015 is the year of Irish Design. ID2015. And the Crafts council have an exhibition of? photographs by Peter Rowen taken of Irish crafts people, designers, architects, milliners, furniture designers, ceramic artists in their studios at work. The exhibition runs in Dublin airport, and my paint splattered studio is part of the exhibition which I am really excited to see. My SS15 collection has been shipped to my international stockists and has landed in Costume on Castle market st, Dublin 2. Quite a bit of the collection has sold out already. Yay! I have started working on SS16 which will show at Paris fashion week in September and I have been invited to show at Vancouver fashion week for SS16 too. I am working on a illustrated kids book of bedtime tales i used to tell my kids and I have been invited back to show at the Florence Biennale in Nov. So it’s a pretty busy 2015, thank God.

You quite literally create works of art that turn into wearable clothes, are you ever satisfied by what you find on the high street?

I think the high street is a great example of fast fashion, it’s pretty well made considering its price. It’s especially helpful if you have fast growing children and teens or in my case if you’re a fashion addict and need a little fix every now and then, that’s not going to have you eating baked beans for a year! What’s on the high the high street is very different to what I create. My work is not trend driven, it’s carefully crafted and created in a lengthly process that is hand produced here in Ireland. Creating jobs for the Irish market.

You’re a big fan of colour, what are your key colours for 2015?

Colours that are popular for this season are: Red, blue, black,? and yellow, apparently! However my collection is full of Donegal grey, cosmic black, sky blue, and studio pastels.

Lastly, wat’s your ideal outfit?

My ideal outfit for day is my paint overalls which are from Chicago county jail and are orange. And for everything else and in between it’s my own collection, especially for night, my cotton silk gypsy dress.

Get your tickets at?Kerry Fashion Week!