On Monday I went to the first talk of the eBay Online Fashion Week series, where Eilis Boyle talked about her work and making it, not just as an Irish designer, but as a designer working in Ireland.
As someone who has been hell-bent on getting the foook out of here for as long as I can remember, it was really refreshing to hear from a talented and successful designer who is happy to run her international business from Dublin. As with a lot of my peers, recession or no, setting up shop in this country is seen as design suicide, and if you want to make it, we were always getting the boat. I have been dreaming of London for as long as I can remember. A working industry (and thus job prospects in my chosen field) coupled with a more exciting city seems like a no brainer, right?
Well, I guess. But I love Dublin, flaws and all. I love my friends and my family. And I love how it’s broken, but broken in a way I know how to deal with. I love the Irish way, I love our bars and our little cafés and how popcorn isn’t hard to find*. And wouldn’t it be great if all our talent didn’t have to have this reflex reaction to leave, if we could all stick around and build up our own industry of international renown? Now I know I’m talking ideal-world scenarios here, but hear me out for two seconds.
At the Ebay talk, Eilis was speaking about her experiences both internationally and in Dublin. The pre-crash years were a tale of success, and international buyers and deals with stores around the world and a thriving brand. Which is the dream. However, the post-2008 story that Eilis told was both more relevant and interesting. She spoke about the community that has emerged from our wrecked economy, about the creative people who have chosen, not only to stay, but to take the opportunities this uncertain time has afforded them and build. People have less money, and are willing to be more experimental, which is making us stronger. She mentioned the establishment of a Council of Irish Fashion Designers, a move that hopefully will help to solidify the notion of an industry within Ireland, and thus can help us move forward and compete on a more international stage. She spoke of how Dublin Fashion Week, spearheaded by Sonia Lennon, was a great catalyst to bringing designers together to help form bonds that may not directly help their work, but will fortify their position and identity.
There seems to be a grassroots movement of designers, stylists & photographers underway, and hopefully it develops and flourishes. In the meantime, most will probably still leave, and cut their teeth in greener (technically, less green, much busier and bigger) pastures. But it’s an inviting prospect to think that there could be a time in the not too distant future that we could come back with a bit of experience and work here, set up shop in my own country, and that there is a working industry to feed into and be proud of.
As it is, there are a group of exceptionally talented, driven, and brave designers who are flying the flag, and representing us on an international platform. Eilis’s work is unreal, sophisticated, beautiful. Her unwearable dress collection is nothing short of couture – she mentioned using €300 PER METRE fabric in parts of her sublime creations. The more that can be done to support them the better.
*A Pret on every corner in London, and not a bag of popcorn to be had when I was living there. I had to get my Irish Mammy to send ration packs of Manhattan, rather than tea!