I tried out the fashion chit chat for the first time back in May with some of my friends who are well established in the industry in Ireland. As it was such a success, I took it a step further and asked four ladies for whom I have the utmost respect to come along and do the whole thing over again. In amongst the cool kids of the South William St set, at Dakota, the gaggle of giggling ladies, took a table to talk fashion. Over a couple of glasses of wine and a few nibbles we got down to serious business and tackled some burning issues of style.
Accompanied by Julie Cobbe, owner of www.stylefish.ie, Rowena Doyle, visual merchandiser and owner of Visual Sense, Bloggers Laura Whiston and Blau von T, I was in my element. Also on hand were the lovely ladies from Elevate Aoife, Karen, and Rose, whose professional knowledge from the world of fashion PR, meant that the group tipped nearly all corners of the the industry.
Getting a group of people together who don’t know each other is worrying, but marrying an informal setting with a topic of conversation we all feel passionate about, was enough to spark the chat. And let’s face it, eight women around a table is not exactly a recipe for silence.
There was no agenda this time; I just wanted the ideas and chat to flow. I thought hard about how I was going to do this, but decided to go with instinct “Autumn/Winter is my favourite season; we’re at a turning point in style now. Chunkier fabrics, darker colours are all coming into the shops. I find it so much easier to dress in the winter. I look forward to buying a new coat every year. One of my favourite trends I’ve seen so far is the abundance of red. I wear black and grey all the time, so with a new change, like dying my hair brown, I am going to try and inject some colour into my wardrobe. So, what is everyone’s favourite Autumn/Winter trend so far?” I added to get the conversation rolling.
“My favourite thing is definitely the minimalist trend”, shares Julie Cobbe, owner of www.stylefish.ie. “I am with you on the black and grey. Anytime I buy something I try to make sure it’s something that will last a few seasons, and I think that’s why summer is harder to buy for. The minimalist trend has lots of block colours, structure and simple styling”. “I love the harem style trouser”, adds Blaubushka fashion blogger and fashion editor of the Cork Student News, Blau von T. “Even for college, they seem a lot smarter, with jeans and a jumper they’re comfortable to wear in all day. They are really fitted but have the comfort. You can really dress them up, like with lace up loafers”. “Yeah I agree”, I interject. “I am always so self conscious when I am wearing jeans, that they are digging into my waist or that they are too low at the back, which is worse. That really annoys me!”
Blau says “another thing that really annoys me is some high street’s stores obsession with really short skirts. I mean…the wind?” This sparks a rapturous giggle from the ladies as of course, some shops just don’t think about the practicality of some of the pieces. “I wonder why the stores go for something so short. I mean even their shorts are short!” I add. “You look at them and you think, where am I going to fit a pair of tights in them? That’s another thing that bothers me, speaking of short, is the different sizing in different shops”. “There’s a big difference between sizes”, says Blau. “I’m between sizes and I don’t want to wear too big or too small”. “I think a lot of people buy a size too small. It can actually add to your size”, says Laura Whiston of Whisty’s blog. “Unless you are very petite, though, a larger size can make you look bigger”, says Julie! Sizing has been an ongoing problem with the high street shops in particular. There’s probably a demand for half sizes in clothes! Ultimately, clothes will never fit perfectly if they are not tailored to your shape. I tell the girls of the time I bought a pair of cargo pants in Penneys in a size ten and I couldn’t even get my foot into them properly. I tried a size 12 and 14 with no joy!
Exactly as I had hoped the conversation started to flow. Bringing back to the original topic, Rowena Doyle, owner of Visual Sense tells she loves Aviator jackets for the coming season. We chat about the prevalence of this trend, and the high street’s overwhelming response to it. “Shops like Marks and Spencer have so many of them”, says Rowena. From some of the shoots I have styled so far this season, this jacket has been one of the key pieces I have used. Although, some of the high street shops have outpriced themselves with these jackets. One I saw was over €200, and for shops that are in the market as affordable, this was a shock to me. “The actual Burberry boots are an investment, “says Julie, “a coat is not an investment to me”. “With coats it’s funny what has come back into trend”, I add. “I was at a press day recently and I couldn’t believe the Barbour jacket is back”. “I actually got a gorgeous cape from Topshop about three weeks ago”, says Karen Finnerty, Account Executive with Elevate PR. “I had been eyeing it on the internet and I love it”.
Another big trend for the cold season is definitely the cape or jackets with some movement in them. Coats hugging the body have taken some time off this Winter, with Karen Millen especially, using the cape in many of their looks. Laura tells us she has a vintage cape made of wool, “to look at you think it would be really heavy but it’s actually quite light”. In keeping with that train of thought, the Alpine look will be huge this winter. There’s nothing to keep you cosy like a chunky knit. “I got this black cardigan a few years ago from DKNY that can be wrapped about ten different ways”, says Julie. Julie is talking about the classic DKNY cosy, which I have as well. “It’s heavy but not heavy wool, you can even wear it as a dress, and it was only about €150”. A great investment for the Irish weather! “I love snoods”, says Rowena, which are another great buy for the winter. Faux fur has also made a huge comeback. Gosh, there are so many trends, where do you start to transform your wardrobe!
As with all girlie chats, we deviate to talk about things like the joy of flying with Ryanair but we swiftly get back on the topic with the upcoming Dublin Festival of Fashion (which took place from October 1 to 3). The group really hopes this works out and that it becomes a regular thing. “What happened to Dublin Fashion week?” I ask. Laura tells us that apparently there was no sponsorship or advertising, which is a pity, considering Cork had hosted a very successful fashion week back in April, and the capital city doesn’t have one? There are so many independent boutiques and designers in Dublin especially; it is a pity that there is no outlet for them. We get into this topic a little more and chat about how so many Irish designers have established themselves in London. It’s almost like a fashion brain drain. But on a good note, Irish designers like Peter O’Brien are making a big comeback. Peter has just launched a beautiful collection of 23 pieces with Arnotts. This is definitely a new trend with designers. Fusion collections for the high street now seem to be a necessity as a marketing technique. H&M have led the way with this; the fashion world eagerly awaits the Lanvin collection! Wouldn’t it be great if the high street approached Irish designers to do these collections? Nurture talent and give them the platform to launch themselves but provide them with the resources to support them?
“In London, designers set up pop up shops when they have a new collection. To do that here would be amazing”, says Laura. The pop shop concept is at an early stage here, but has not been used for fashion outlets. Maybe this is a short term solution for new designers? Take advantage of empty retail space in prime shopping districts and test the water with the consumer. Blau tell us that on Opera Lane, Cork, every second Saturday in the month, a warehouse space is used to promote new designers who can come and set up a stall and sell their designs. This is a great way to make your brand known and have some interaction with the public. We need to support our own.
“Maybe fashion week hasn’t happened because of the Xposé live type shows”, adds Laura. Commercially driven trade and live shows are, undoubtedly, popular with women in this country but this has not provided space for emerging talent to come to the fore. “I think maybe we’ll have to start a fashion revolution here!” adds Rowena. And you know what, she’s right. The focus seems to be on the high street, which I agree, is necessary to keep the rag trade going in Ireland, but the back street is just as important. We need to be in equilibrium.
Julie explains “Look at this venue, it’s intimate but big enough. To organise something that designers could go to would be great”. “There is the Beauty Spot”, says Laura, which is a weekly fashion and beauty event held in Dakota which is also filmed by www.stylenation.ie, Ireland’s online fashion TV. “You could even add to this format, and have a short fashion show”, I add in. “Nothing elaborate, but a different designer every week”. Blau suggests this format can be really flexible and can incorporate the world of performance art, to add an edge. All of these worlds and industries are interlinked and by assisting one, you also help out another.
Our conversation took many turns into so many topics. What’s wonderful is that some of these ladies had never met before, but had one thing in common; they are all working to boost, but maintain, the profile of fashion in this country. Just by putting our heads together we can conclude that a platform is badly needed for emerging and existing talent, who do not have the resources to publicise their work. Perhaps we need to find a way for designers who have achieved great heights in their careers, like Orla Kiely, Paul Costello and John Rocha, to mentor this talent and help show them the way. If anything, it’s food for thought.
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Also, thank you to Dakota, South William Street and Awear.