My Friends In Fashion: Rosemary MacCabe

Rosemary MacCabe is one of Ireland’s most famous faces in fashion. The lady behind the Irish Times Fash Mob blog, no doubt you will have read her exceptional posts on all things style. In the first of many styleisle “My Friend’s In Fashion” features, Rosemary gives an insight into her take on fashion!

Rosemary McCabe

Fivewords, describe your style. Go.

Eclectic, comfortable, feminine, embellished, insouciant.

What areyour fashion pet hates?

I hate identikit fashion – when I see girls hanging around in “packs” where they all dress they same it just makes me so sad, as if there’s no originality as a result of peer pressure. I also hate trashy fashion, or, rather, I hate when I feel like women are dressing for men, rather than for themselves. Irish menswear! I wish men could and would take more chances, and I’m not talking about head to toe neons. I just wish that men had the freedom to use fashion as expression in the same way women do. On a simplistic level, I hate Rock & Republic jeans, Paul’s Boutique anything, Hervé Léger bodycon dresses, fake anything (hair, nails, tan or tits), low-cut V-neck tees on guys (leading to that most heinous word, “heavage”), anything inspired by Geordie Shore or TOWIE.

What is your favourite outfit?

It really depends on my mood and the occasion. At the moment I’m loving an oversized tweed coat I got in Topshop, kind of a boyfriend shape – it makes everything look really kind of Swedish, although that might just be from my reading In terms of full outfit, probably skinny jeans with an oversized grandfather shirt from Cos and a Joanne Hynes embellished necklace. Then ankle boots – always ankle boots.

What item of clothing do you wish you owned ?

I went through a serious phase of wanting those Isabel Marant wedge trainers, but once the high-street copies came in, in force (and of course I bought a pair, by Ash), I really went off them. I was lusting after a Céline trapeze bag for what felt like the longest time, but then I got one as a gift from my sister (the best sister ever!) and, though I really, really love it, my life hasn’t improved in any tangible way. So I guess I don’t waste too much time wishing I owned things I don’t. If I had to pick one thing from the current collections, it would be 3.1 Philip Lim’s black Pashli satchel. I’ve considered buying it more than once, even though it costs about a month’s rent.

Finish the sentence “I love writing about fashion because….”

There’s always something new to discover, or to interpret. To me, fashion is art – but instead of being art that sits on the wall of a gallery of a house, it’s fashion that’s worn, that’s worn in or worn out, that changes to suit the wearer (or not, as the case may be) and that really says things about its context. Either it sends a message about the person, about the place, about the time … one of the most interesting things about looking back at old photographs, for example, is that so much of the caption can be written just by taking note of what the people are wearing. Fashion matters because not only is it a vibrant, creative, artistic industry, it’s history. And it allows people to be what they might not otherwise be: outgoing, or daring, or political … that whole slogan trend in the 1980s and 1990s was a real example of a social movement being absorbed into fashion. I could wax lyrical about the myriad ways fashion matters, but I think that’s the crux of it: I love writing about fashion because it matters, in so many ways.

How do you deal with writers block (if you have ever experienced it)

I just try. And then I try again. I’m lucky in that I blog as well as write, so when I find myself stuck I’ll do one of those image-heavy posts, you know, one of those “I’ve had these images in my folder for a year” kind of things. I’ll stick up a few pics and say why I like them; sometimes it helps just to remind myself what inspires me. But I guess, too, I’m lucky in that I write about fashion but I also write features, travel and so on, so if I get blocked on one topic I just move on to another for a bit of a breather. It helps to take a break.

Looking to next season, which designers are leading the race in your view?

I am really excited about Peter Pilotto, Mary Katrantzou and Erdem: the young Brits. At home, I think Natalie Coleman’s designs are gorgeous. Her stuff was worn by Marina and the Diamonds, which in my mind is a great stamp of approval; Marina was at all of the London shows last season, she’s so “now” (although by next season, she might be a bit “then”!). There are always going to be the big guns, the guys with the money and the clout, who will stay big and get bigger until they take over from one another: Mulberry, Stella, Céline, Lanvin, Chanel . . . but I think people like Victoria Beckham and Mary Katrantzou are really threatening to encroach on their turf. It’s an exciting time.

What is your take on Irish fashion (a very open question!)

There is a lot that I love about Irish fashion in terms of street style, and there’s a lot that I hate, but to focus on the positives I think the last few years have seen really great strides in terms of experimentation and bravery. We’re taking a lot more chances, which is important. I think it goes hand in hand with Ireland becoming more multicultural – this summer I saw so many groups of really well dressed young black girls in Dublin, which you just wouldn’t have seen 10 years ago. It’s all becoming a lot more like London, which is great: the more cultures we get in, the more influence and inspiration we can take from them. In a way I’m sorry the whole “hipster” thing happened, where we began to label this new and interesting street style, so that it all just became an elite movement, rather than several young people being a bit ballsy. The negative connotations were a bit unfair, because in the beginning I think it was just kids, taking inspiration from music and art and going very 1980s, aesthetically – now it really is a copying-my-mates kind of thing.

Any advice for a budding fashion journalist?

There are two really important things that any writer can do: read and write. Reading is probably the most important of the two, though. I feel like to become a good writer you really need to be a good reader; you can’t expect people to read your writing if you don’t know what that experience, of being a reader, and an avid one, is like. Start a blog: blogs are 10 a penny these days, but if you’re smart and you’re dedicated and you’re good, you’ll build up a following of sorts. But don’t be disillusioned: you’re not going to get rich on blogging. There are approximately 100 people in the world who live off their blogs, and you are not going to join them. At least, not in the next five years, and not in Ireland. But journalism, really, is the art of writing about people. No matter how you do it – be it through a prism of music, or art, or fashion, or news, or politics, it’s about people. So you need to be understanding, and you need to have empathy. And if you’re going to be a journalist, you need to love it. If you don’t love writing, and you don’t love reading, do something else. But for gods’ sake, if you don’t love reading, don’t be a teacher. It’s not the back-up plan: the kids deserve better.

What are your dreams and ambitions in fashion ?

I’m pretty happy with my trajectory, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious, right now – I have a regular fashion page in The Irish Times, I do their fashion blog, I do some TV work and I occasionally do fun things like judge other women on how they’re dressing (feet of clay, seriously). But ultimately, I’d like to get to the point where I felt like I could say no a lot more often. I think that, in this industry, you really have to be a yes man. And I’m the worst kind of yes man – I only say no when I have a real ethical quandary, and often end up having 10 things to do in 24 hours. I feel like I’ll know I’ve made it when I can go, “you know what? I can’t actually do that job because I’m hanging out with my boyfriend and my dog. We’re going to spend this weekend in the country and there’s no wi-fi.” That sounds pretty good right now.

You can check out Rosemary’s Blog right here –



  1. Laura
    November 1, 2012 / 10:41 pm

    Rosemary, if I had to sum up this interview in one word it would be HONEST. I couldn’t agree with you more. Everything is so true, not to mention funny…thank you for creating a new pasttime for me- reading your blogs 🙂

  2. Zoe Coleman
    July 19, 2012 / 12:38 am

    Great interview, love what she says about originality, so many teenage girls especially just look the same and I remember the vague feeling of isolation I felt for not wanting to participate in that, but as you grow up you learn to embrace it, some people don’t but oh well! The advice on reading and her openess about the saturation of blogs out there, is really honest and upfront. Also – she’s got an amazing head of hair!

    • Rosemary Mac Cabe
      July 20, 2012 / 6:11 pm

      Oh thanks Zoe! That is all really lovely to hear, I appreciate it (and not just the hair compliment, although that was especially nice – probably one of the things that forced me to embrace individuality as a teen, there was just no fitting in with that mane!).

  3. Cottonfacevintage
    July 18, 2012 / 4:34 pm

    nice interview ladies 🙂

    • Rosemary Mac Cabe
      July 18, 2012 / 8:59 pm

      Thanks Cottonface!