When it comes to Irish fashion, there are a few names that immediately spring to mind. Expert milliner Philip Treacy, textile guru Orla Kiely and haute couturier Sybil Connolly have all brought Irish style to a global audience, and paved the way for a new generation of talented Irish designers including Hope Macaulay, Laura Weber and Simone Rocha. All three women, and many more, have dazzled the fashion world both at home and abroad.
On the island of Ireland, the design scene is becoming increasingly influential both nationally and internationally. For instance, Katie Ann McGuigan from Newry has been busy gaining experience with big brands, like Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs since graduating college in 2016. County Tyrone’s Sharon Wauchob has been building her reputation since the 90s, becoming a staple of the London Fashion Week schedule and regularly works with luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton.
More recently, Dublin native Laura Weber made headlines after Dr Jill Biden wore a piece of hers to the US presidential inauguration in 2021. Over the years, Weber has created garments for Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Bette Midler and former first lady Michelle Obama.
Daughter of well-known fashion designer John Rocha, Simone Rocha became the first Irish designer to have launched her own brand of clothing for the chain store, H&M. Early in her career, Rocha launched her graduate collection at the Tate Modern and London Fashion Week. Today, she has stores across London, New York and Hong Kong.
In 2021, tennis champion Naomi Osaka was seen wearing a colourful, handmade cardigan on the cover of GQ magazine, which was designed by Antrim native, Hope Macaulay. During her time in college, Macaulay experimented with knitting after her grandmother taught her the basics. Today, all of her knitwear is manufactured in Northern Ireland with the help of local seamstresses.
But our fashion triumphs don’t stop there. Ireland’s style scene is currently buzzing with smaller, breakthrough talents, such as knitwear designer Pearl Reddington; Aoibheann MacNamara and Triona Lillis, who create handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces that are made entirely from Irish fabrics; and Alanagh Clegg who uses ethically sourced fabrics from Ireland and India to create beautiful, ethereal pieces. Dublin, Cork and Belfast are the go-to places to bag a designer piece before they go international.
If you’re visiting the Rebel County, Cork by Design has a great collection of vegan-made wallets and handbags. In Dublin, check out design collective Project 51 for up-and-coming names that you won’t find anywhere else. And while you’re visiting the island of Ireland, there are plenty of outlets where you can purchase a bespoke piece from the country’s established designers, including Johannes Hynes stunning collaboration with Dunnes Stores. Northern Irish designer, JW Anderson has also collaborated with the popular department store Brown Thomas.
All across the island of Ireland, local designers are developing new ways to make clothes fun and more sustainable. Take Galway-based company irishsocksciety.com for example, they have ensured their products are made of non-harmful materials and come in recyclable packaging. Due South was born in 2016 and marries cosiness with sustainability. All of their clothing is ethically produced – they even make sunglasses from recycled skateboards!
But hang on, Irish fashion isn’t all about modern iconic designers. There are a few classics that lurk in our past that we’re definitely not prepared to let go of just yet.
Knitwear is a big deal in Ireland, but the ultimate knitwear piece has to be the Aran jumper: the classic, fisherman’s “water-resistant” winter warmer traditionally created using unscoured wool. They're super-warm because they needed to be: the Aran Islands in the days before central heating was not the cosiest place in the world.
These days, you can find Aran jumpers in knitwear stores all over Ireland, but if you want to score one from the place that made it famous: jump on a ferry to the islands themselves. Ó’Máille’s is one of Ireland’s oldest established clothing stores. The business was opened in March 1938 by Padraic O’Maille. He bought traditional sweaters from Aran Island women who sold their wares on Saturdays at the Galway City open-air market. He became the first retailer in Ireland to trade in Aran sweaters. Today, the business is still thriving and can be found on the High Street in Galway.
Looking for a slightly more modern version? Try The Tweed Project, Pearl Reddington or Stable of Ireland. Fashionable and cosy? Yes please.