Leigh Tucker: Irish fashion designer

The launch for Leigh Tucker's children's clothing range for Dunnes Stores was held on Saturday November 2, 2013 at Dunnes Stores Dublin headquarters in St Stephen's Street, Dublin 2. Dunnes Stores has been a heavyweight in Irish fashion for generations since its foundation by Ben Dunne as a drapery and grocery store.

The brand has grown alongside other comparable Irish retailers such as Primark, known throughout Ireland as Penneys and department-store chains operating in Ireland such as Marks and Spencer.

There probably isn't an Irish woman alive who doesn't know where her nearest Dunnes Stores is. It's the same with Penneys, as that Irish company also grew from one shop that specialized in rock-bottom priced fashion. Dunnes Stores differs from Penneys in that it's equally known for its grocery departments as its textiles, and has matched the predominantly UK-based Marks and Spencer in providing great textiles in fashion and homeware as well as a comprehensive range of groceries from local, fresh produce to readymade meals at various price points.

Its fashion department covers everything from pantyhose (tights to us here in Ireland and Britain) to blinging outfits for every occasion. But its primary role as a retailer disguises one of its other crucial roles in Irish society: sponsor of the Irish fashion trade.

Like many of the huge department stores operating in Ireland, Dunnes has been collaborating with big-name designers for diffusion lines in everything from toddlers to teens, and from adult womenswear to menswear. And this year it's managed to pull off a coup in attracting Leigh Tucker to design a collection of kids' clothing.

Leigh Tucker has been bringing her own fashion lines to market in Ireland and throughout the world since 1999. Her label Leighlee's annual launches have been a keenly anticipated feature for boutique fashion retailers, and now with this new venture she has brought her discernment to this children's collection.

Exclusively sold at just a few of the Dunnes Stores outlets (it'll be available only in 22 of its draperies) the collection is called Willow and is sure to be snapped up. It's fashion that adults would be happy to wear, made all the more irresistible in the doll-like sizes for toddlers.

Why it should appeal to families this winter is that the collection starts at just €10 and rises to more expected prices for big-ticket items like coats and shoes. There are complete outfits for under €100 that tick all the boxes on style, quality and charm.

Bouclé coats for little fashionistas that can be dumped into the washing machine to clean, are in adorable colors (dark gray, so they don't need to be dumped into that washing machine quite so often!) that pick up the lilacs, mauves and other sweetly feminine colors and florals of the skirts, trousers or shirts for little girls.

The colors for boys are manly enough for toddlers through to pre-teens and the textures and shapes are contemporary, edgy and laundry-friendly. The collection is parent-friendly too in that the designer has crafted an accompanying 'creative play' collection that diverts little fingers, minds and imaginations back to developmental games that focus on co-ordination. There are mobiles, masks and placemats to color in, play kitchens and dolls' houses, cardboard Ferris wheels and pirate ships cakes stands that will amuse both boys and girls.

Some of the shops with have interactive play areas where kids can try out some of the cute toys and you can examine the lovely details of the collection for yourself. The feel and weight of the fabrics to the touch, decorative detailing like ribbons and smocking are all laid out in the physical shop. But if you're a time-precious mum or dad and regularly buy from catalogues or websites, or are have recently emigrated and need to coordinate your Kris Kindle from afar, then check out the Leigh Tucker's Willow line on dunnesstores.com

Winter collection Leigh Tucker childrenswear

Winter clothing for boys and girls by Irish designer Leigh Tucker at Dunnes Stores
Winter clothing for boys and girls by Irish designer Leigh Tucker at Dunnes Stores | Source

Warm and stylish for dainty dolls

Lurex cardigan €25 and lace dress €35; star top €16 and ballet skirt €20.
Lurex cardigan €25 and lace dress €35; star top €16 and ballet skirt €20. | Source
The Willow collection includes some creative play elements in cardboard: toys designed to be low-tech alternative that still focus little hands on hand/eye coordination
The Willow collection includes some creative play elements in cardboard: toys designed to be low-tech alternative that still focus little hands on hand/eye coordination | Source

Keeping it in the family

For inspiration Leigh drew heavily from her own experience as a mum: "When children are comfortable and confident in what they're wearing, and given the space to create and learn they are at their most content."

She said of the knitwear and coats that allow kids play outdoors on cold, damp days: "As a mum of three kids, I wanted to design an affordable clothing range where cut styles meet functional and practical apparel without compromising play."

Her youngest daughter Willow is the namesake of this particular collection, and its attention to details that make parents' lives easier – bright colors, easy fasteners, charming textures like the floaty fabric in the ballet skirt and tough canvas in trousers for boisterous tumbles – are great bonuses.

The upper age limit of roughly nine years old means that your smaller kids can choose clothing that's distinctly different from older preteens. There's still plenty to attract kids who prefer tailored clothing like grown-up jackets as well as those who are happier and more relaxed in soft fabrics and casual styles.

Leigh's history of designing luxury clothing was learned at her father's knee. Her dad, Brian Tucker was a fashion designer and her boutique Costume in Dublin's Castle Market caters to well-to-do women looking for exclusive, business-oriented brands that subtly convey power and vitality. The fun and creative licence offered to her in this Willow collection pops out of every element of the design.

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