Glamorous knitwear from Ireland
Luxurious knitwear that offers comfort and glamour is one of the great consolations of winter. The texture and structure of fine wools from mohair to merino add a tactile element to your cold-weather wardrobe that transcends the mere touch of the fabric. Regardless of whether you prefer a loose-fitting, draped or snug-fitting cardigan, layering on woolens gives fashion fans a completely different set of flattering shapes than summer clothing.
The Kilkenny chain of fashion stores throughout Ireland has built its reputation on sourcing the finest Irish and international brands in clothing and homewares. Once known as Kilkenny Design, the name was a tribute both to its origins in the south-east of the country and as a reiteration of that county's early commitment to craft as fine art. The craft council of Ireland is based in Co. Kilkenny so it was one of the first counties to feature its artisans' workshops as a leisurely drive through charming countryside and world-class handbag makers, handblown glass workshops such as Jerpoint (in the Murano style rather than Waterford's cut crystal pieces) and potters like Nicolas Mosse.
The chain is simply known as Kilkenny now as shoppers here know what to expect of its range. Winter fashion at the company's outlets this year includes a knitwear selection that will delight anyone who loves all the associations of woolen winter wear.
Fans of wool as outerwear have woolens that bridge the gap between ponchos and jackets in an international brand called Charli, which has a Firenzi Cape in deep red (burgundy) with a cowl neck and a generous drape for ease of movement. Another from Charli is the Gracie Jacket, which has a tailored collar and shoulders with a loose, asymmetrical drape in front.
Other international lures for us are the Nougat and Gustav collections, the former for instance for its winter dress that is formal enough for daywear and yet cut in a glamorously feminine shape that wouldn't look out of place at work/social hybrid functions in the evenings. Less formal functions for women, or those where conservatively muted knitwear is considered bland, are perfect places for the Gustav brand.
The Kilkenny brand of retail outlets can be found in all of the major cities and big towns in Ireland if you're visiting the country – it's got 11 shops under its own name, and a couple of others with similar values in well-designed knitwear called Christy's in Killarney, Co. Kerry and Cobh, Co. Cork.
Another upmarket brand trending in Irish independent fashion boutiques such as Choice Boutiques includes a label called Bellenisa. It caught my eye as it's being promoted here by a popular TV presenter Barbara McMahon, whose name is synonymous with relaxed style and glamour.