Graduate season is arguably the most exciting time of the fashion calendar. The season (April to June here in Ireland) brings an injection of newness and excitement during an otherwise dull transitional period between Spring and Summer.
This morning, a palpable crowd of journalists, stylists, academics, designers and retail specialists were among the first to view the work of twenty hopeful designers from the National College of Art and Design (NCAD). Their ability to generate a newness, innovation and excitement is a testament not only to their talent as individuals, but to the level of skill taught in and outside of the classroom at NCAD.
The showcase shone a light on the fashion class of 2019 through the medium of film in a superb and captivating 21-minute instalment. The film eloquently captures the movement, emotion and unadulterated skill of each designer, the room grew loud of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ during certain appearances of flowing chiffon and billowing sleeves.
What the film doesn’t show is the inevitable frenzy to finish, the whiz of sewing machines and the maelstrom of stress that comes with the territory of design that this group have undoubtedly experienced in the past months. Their reward is nothing short of brilliant.
Diverse cultural and familial backgrounds, articulated through both traditional craft techniques and new design processes, are to the fore of this year’s fashion collections. Gabrielle Malone’s collection titled ‘For Biddie’ pays homage to her family's generational connection to the fishing industry.
Isobel O’Reilly’s ‘Delia’s Prizefighter’ offering combined inflatable turquoise latex with brown moira taffeta and silk to bring to life her womenswear collection conversely inspired by male boxing culture.
Meanwhile Anni Wen’s neon, lime green punch electrifies traditional Chinese dress with fluorescent piping overlaying a delicate porcelain veneer.
Many produce unusual, less-seen designs with acute execution. Sinead Power’s treatment of gender inequality in sport and the politics of colour packs a punch in forest greens and splashes of vivid colour.
Earlier this month, Una King’s collection called Bivouac, based around using materials from tents and temporary encampments, earned her this year’s €3,500 River Island bursary and a three-month internship at the company’s headquarters in London.
Sustainability is a big focus of this year, with many students reclaiming old garments and reusing them, using natural dyes and zero waste in pattern cutting. Another designer, Nicolette Mai Xunanova, created a wearable garden dress inspired by nature and plants, of which the arms moved like inflating, breathing lungs, making a statement for sustainability.
Multicultural backgrounds are particularly notable too; Elizabeth Omowumi’s fused together her Nigerian background with European culture to create a vibrant mix of patterns and colour. Sara Millassin’s collection presented a distinct clinical feel to it, save for the delicate femininity of ruched chiffon.
WATCH: 2019 NCAD Fashion Film
Brown Thomas ‘Designer to Watch’ Bursary Prize Winner
The second highlight of the morning was the announcement of the Brown Thomas ‘Designer To Watch’ bursary presented by Brown Thomas Fashion Director Shelly Corkery. Heather Gilroy’s ‘Among the Flat Pink Roses’ collection claimed this year’s prize which includes a bursary of €4,000, a space in the 2019 CREATE installation at Brown Thomas this July and an invaluable mentoring programme with the Brown Thomas management team.
Gilroy, whose finish encompasses laser-cut silk and layered frills and cashmere, is inspired by the ‘Repeal The Eight' movement. Passages from Sylvia Plath's poetry appeared on screen to accompany her pieces and is a poignant reminder of the darker side of motherhood.
Attempting to pick a solitary favourite is trivial, no doubt. And although a plethora of Irish-born have fled Ireland in search of opportunities and growth, their departures abroad do not indicate the demise of the industry at home.
In fact, Ireland’s fashion industry is growing stronger by the day, despite post-Brexit fears, and the flourishing number of nouveau aspiring designers is a testament to this.
See the students’ collections and fashion film during the Graduate Exhibition this coming June 8 to June 16 at the NCAD campus in Dublin