showcase ireland clothes
Showcase is a tradefair held in January every year at the RDS for Ireland’s independent retailers. It gives a preview of what’s going to be on offer throughout our local shops for the year, ranging from little gifts as mementos and keepsakes to beautiful clothes and homewares.
There was also a hall dedicated to foodstuffs, which I didn’t go into as I’m battling with a stubborn five pounds in weight that means the difference between my clothes fitting me and my looking as if there’s no mirror in my house. The temptation would have been too much to resist. I could cheerfully have spent the day mooching around the food hall sampling the cheeses, chocs and snaffle-fest that the foodies had to tempt the reassuringly cosmopolitan buyers there to do business.
Kate Moss apparently got into a spot of bother lately for saying something along the lines that nothing tastes as good as being slim feels. Apart from the fact that it’s obviously a big, fat load of codswallop – straight off I could list about 22,000 things that taste as good as being slim, and many of them begin with the letters s.a.u.s.a.g.e. – I find I have to agree with her when I’m trying to shoehorn myself into my wardrobe. And that’s just to hide. When I actually take the clothes out and put them on, those extra five pounds come between me and my better nature.
Anyway. The clothes that will be available from Irish designers go a long way towards proving the fashionista’s point.
Limerick designer Giordana Giache was for me, the belle of the ball, in terms of the one coat I would have parted with €500 for had I got such an amount to love something for the rest of my life. You can get a sense of it from the photo as it’s got a lovely cut, but it doesn’t show the layers of different textures that are in the bustle or the satisfying feel of the coat fabric. I may be doing the woman a disservice by putting that price on it as the amount of detailing was spectacular, it may retail for much more. If and when I find out the price I’ll let you know. Other pieces she designed are a very serviceable black knitted coat with the feel of a handknit that was sophisticated enough to take you to high-powered meetings, and practical enough to survive the rigours of an Irish winter. Her dresses and tops were attractive too: while the coats will look best on slim women, the dresses were loose fitting in sumptuously soft fabrics that were in rich, classy, deep colours that would make you look and feel great regardless of what shape you’re in, so long as you feel you want to look glam. Her label is called The Fly.
Another fashion designer who stopped traffic was Edel MacBride. Her workshop in Convey, Co Donegal produces fabulous knitwear in terms of “smart casual”: upmarket handknits that are relaxed and made for women on the go. Her website shows a great selection of her seasonal wear, but the showstopper at the trade fair this year was a full-length, crocheted lace dress in gold. The weight and texture of the gown would make you feel like a million dollars as it meant that it shimmered and swung properly. The outfit was finished off with another of Edel’s specialities, a snood. This was a matching jacket that skims your shoulders and is fitted under the bust. It had a luxurious fun feeling to it: it was frothy and fluffy and feathery. And I’ll stop the Dr Seuss thing now. It had the oomph of ostrich feathers, a very subtle reference to burlesque but in a luxurious finish.
At the other end of the country, Kerry Woollen Mills had a standout fineknit shawl (something like the one worn by Suzy Amis at one of the awards ceremonies for her husband’s Avatar). Hers was in black and added layers of soft glam, and the shape of the Tara cape in cashmere and merino wool reminded me of her look. Kerry Woollen Mills also have a collection of Ruanas, which are gloriously coloured lightweight pieces like a pashmina, only in more generous proportions.
Other labels that caught my eye were Beacon Designs for their long, light shawls and ponchos. One of their lines of cardis had unusually fluffed edges that gave the pieces an arty edge.
Carbery and Blainroe had the best fairisle sweaters and cardigans that I saw, their colours, tones and patterns were lovely.
Johnstones made me wonder about adding them to the interiors section rather than the fashion, but their regular, workaday winter scarves were Ivy League gravitas and on the sexy side of conservative. Their woollen blankets were worthy of a Dwell, Elle Deco, Living Etc, Image Interiors or House and Home shoot. That is, they were very aspirational.
In menswear edmundmacnulty.com lived up to his name by producing another round of touchy-feely textures in very sophisticated colours and shapes. Part of the luxury of his collection is in his choice of materials: he uses kid mohair and merino wools, and alpaca hairs that are brushed during the knitting process to give the finished garment a supersoft texture. The other is in the sheer cleverness of his designs: where and when he uses a blanket stitch edging, or which particular tone of lichen yellow, stormy blue, or pebble grey.
Mageeireland.com is the portal for a company that’s been producing fine tweeds and tailoring year after year and is very familiar to Irish buyers. It’s probably a bit sneaky for me to add them to the menswear, when in fact it was their luscious womenswear that lured me to the stand. Hacking jackets, suits and overcoats in subtle palettes have been recently boosted by the addition of vividly pink plaids for very neat women’s tailored jackets.
If you reckon you’ll simply be buying your loved ones back home a small gift as a memento of Ireland, the farmer’s cap is the thing to buy. They’re the quintessential headgear in the country for men, and sporting country squires like Madonna. There are the traditional muted caps made entirely of the one tweed of your choice, but the latest fashion is a patchwork of tweeds that offer more versatility to the dapper dresser. Have a look at hannahats.ie
The winner in the novelty goods category was a tiny thing of beauty that’s impressive for everyone thinking of taking an Irish present abroad, or for anyone who travels extensively. Funaffordablegifts.com is home to a selection of boxer shorts, socks and cute pyjamas that are compressed into palm size. The girlies love the boxer shorts and vests, teens and adults love the risqué slogans and cartoons emblazoned on man-size boxer shorts, kids love the candy-coloured socks and everyone loves the prices. The novelty aspect is the fact that the package is so small and is ideal for anyone thinking of their luggage allowances.