When Heidi Higgins delivers her winter collection to Arnotts this week, it will have been done within walking distance of the store. For the first time, three independent designers, members of the Council of Irish Fashion Designers (CIFD) – who hosted their second digital show this week – are collaborating with Irish social enterprise We Make Good in a pilot program to produce high quality.
“The designers are in the limelight, but not the people who make the clothes,” says Higgins, one of the three who includes Caoimhe Murphy and Melissa Steele of Loom Irish Linen. “It saves me a lot – on time, on shipping, on couriers and it’s great to see the seamstresses and work with them.”
The Dublin-based studio will provide local and ethical manufacturing services to Irish designers while giving people from marginalized backgrounds a chance to thrive through skills training and employment. He is overseen by Sarah Verdon, who has spent over 15 years working in production and sales, including with fashion designers John and Simone Rocha.
“Sustainable quality and local manufacturing are associated with added value, minimal waste and a reduced carbon footprint by an ever-growing number of environmentally conscious customers,” says CIFD President Eddie Shanahan.
Collaboration has been a focus for CIFD, which now has 55 members across fashion, accessories, millinery, jewelery and children’s wear. Among the latest are hatter Wendy Louise with basket weaver Aoife Patterson; Faye Rochford of FeRi with feltmaker Carmen Garcia; and Cobblers Lane with lacemaker Sara Clancy. CIFD, which has adopted a sustainable development charter, is also a founding member of the European Fashion Alliance, which has 25 members.
In its latest digital show, color was strong for both evening and day wear, though black and white is still a party and after-dark favorite.
Knitwear leveraged Irish strengths with bold silhouettes from Laura Chambers, Linda Wilson, Gabrielle Malone and Urban Aran.
In an early presentation of menswear, Ciara Allen showcased a streetwise collection of prints and fine tweeds from Kerry Woolen Mills, while menswear also featured in an updated pajama collection from Loom Irish Linen.
Prints again figured prominently, especially those of Eadach by Sara O’Neill and Caroline Duffy.
Standout pieces were Helen Hayes’ intricate ribbon designs, and Caoimhe Murphy’s silk organza “Love Bomber” babydoll and jackets, beaded with anatomical glass hearts.
Elsewhere, there was also plenty to admire in jewellery, bags, bridal wear and loafers, and a striking glass, chainmail and aluminum necklace, the result of a collaboration between jeweler Sara Ross and the glass artist Maggie Napier.