SHAMROCK STYLE: A LOOK AT IRELAND’S FASHION LEGENDS THROUGH THE DECADES

Couturier Sybil Connolly photographed at the launch of her US collection in June 1953. (Photo Credit: Irish Independent)

March is not only known as Woman’s History Month, but it is Irish American Heritage Month as well. So, it is only fitting on St. Patrick’s Day, to pay homage to Ireland’s rich cultural heritage, including its vibrant contributions to the fashion world. From the traditional craftsmanship of tweed and lace to the avant-garde designs of contemporary couturiers, Irish fashion designers have left an indelible mark on the industry.

As we honor Ireland’s rich cultural heritage, let’s also take a moment to salute the visionary designers who have helped to put Irish fashion on the map. From the timeless elegance of Sybil Connolly to the avant-garde creations of Simone Rocha, their contributions to the world of fashion will continue to inspire generations to come. So, whether you’re donning a piece of Irish knitwear or a bold statement hat, let’s tip a beer to the creativity, innovation, and style of Ireland’s fashion legends. Sláinte!

Join UOF as we take a journey through the decades to explore the legacy of some of Ireland’s most influential fashion icons.

SYBIL CONNOLLY: DUBLIN’S DIOR

A look by Sybil Connolly. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

No discussion of Irish fashion would be complete without mentioning Sybil Connolly, often referred to as Dublin’s Dior. Connolly gained international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s for her exquisite couture creations, which often featured traditional Irish textiles like handwoven tweed and delicate lace. Her designs were celebrated for their romantic elegance and attention to detail, earning her a devoted clientele that included Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor.

IRENE GILBERT: PIONEER OF IRISH FASHION

A selection of Irene Gilbert’s designs on display at the Little Museum of Dublin. (Photo Credit: Little Museum of Dublin)

Irene Gilbert was another true pioneer of Irish fashion, breaking boundaries and challenging conventions throughout her career. Gilbert became Ireland’s first ever couturier and the first woman to successfully run a fashion business in Ireland in 1947. She was known for dressing high society ladies throughout Ireland, as well as Grace Kelly. She will forever be known as the Irish designer who helped pave the way for Irish fashion designers.

NEILLI MULCAHY: HAUTE COUTURE

Designer Neillí Mulcahy at work. (Photo Credit: Little Museum of Dublin)

Neilli Mulcahy ran an haute couture salon in Dublin from 1951 to 1970 and was known for her bold use of color and extensive use of local materials such as linen, poplin and printed wool, but specifically tweed for evening wear. Along with fashion designers Ib Jorgensen, Irene Gilbert and Clodagh Kennedy, she founded the Irish Haute Couture Group to promote Irish fashion in the U.S..

SIMONE ROCHA: A MODERN VISIONARY

Looks from Simone Rocha’s Fall 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar)

Simone Rocha has emerged as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary fashion, blending elements of Irish tradition with a distinctly modern sensibility. Since launching her eponymous label in 2010, Rocha has garnered widespread acclaim for her romantic yet rebellious designs, which often feature delicate embroidery, voluminous silhouettes, and unexpected twists on femininity. Her ability to seamlessly blend the old with the new has cemented her status as a true fashion visionary.

ORLA KIELY: QUEEN OF PRINTS

Orla Kiely and her playful bags. (Photo Credit: The Times)

Orla Kiely’s bold prints and retro-inspired designs have made her a household name in the world of fashion. Since founding her label in the late 1990s, Kiely has become known for her playful yet sophisticated aesthetic, which often draws inspiration from mid-century modernism and vintage motifs. Her iconic stem print, in particular, has become synonymous with her brand and has been featured on everything from handbags to home goods.

PHILLIP TRACY: MASTER MILLINER

Naomi Campbell modeling Philip Treacy’s iconic butterfly hat. (Photo Credit: Vanity Fair)

Phillip Treacy is not only one of Ireland’s most celebrated fashion designers but also one of the world’s foremost milliners. Known for his whimsical and avant-garde approach to hat design, Treacy has created iconic headpieces for everyone from royalty to pop stars. His sculptural creations push the boundaries of traditional millinery, transforming hats into works of art that defy convention and captivate the imagination. Camilla Parker wore a Philip Treacy hat at her wedding with Prince Charles in 2005. He’s also created hats for some f the most iconic women including Madonna, Lady Gaga, Princess Beatrice of York, Victoria Posh Beckham, Isabella Blow and Sarah Jessica Parker. Treacy has also created runway hats for Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, and Valentino, to name just a few.

JW ANDERSON: REDEFINING FASHION

A look by JW Anderson’s Fall 2024 Collection. (Photo Credit: Lauchmetrics)

Joathan Anderson has earned a reputation as one of the fashion industry’s most innovative and boundary-pushing designers for his label JW Anderson. Born in Northern Ireland, Anderson has become known for his gender-fluid designs and eclectic aesthetic, which often combines elements of British and Irish heritage with a modern twist. His eponymous label has garnered critical acclaim for its bold silhouettes, unexpected fabric combinations, and subversive approach to fashion.

LOUISE KENNEDY: TIMELESS ELEGANCE

Various looks from Louise Kennedy. (Photo Credit: Forbes)

Louise Kennedy is synonymous with timeless elegance, thanks to her sophisticated designs and impeccable tailoring. Since launching her label in the 1980s, Kennedy has dressed everyone from royalty to Hollywood stars, earning a reputation for her classic yet contemporary aesthetic. Her luxurious creations often feature clean lines, luxurious fabrics, and subtle embellishments, embodying the epitome of understated glamour. In 2013, Kennedy was called the “uncrowned queen of Irish fashion”.

SINEAD O’DWYER: PUSHING BOUNDARIES

Looks from Sinead O’Dwyer’s Fall 2024 Show. (Photo Credit: Yahoo)

Sinead O’Dwyer is a rising star in the world of fashion, known for her boundary-pushing designs and commitment to inclusivity. O’Dwyer’s work often challenges traditional notions of beauty and body ideals, celebrating diversity and self-expression. Through her experimental use of materials and avant-garde silhouettes, she seeks to challenge the status quo and redefine the parameters of fashion.

PAUL COSTELLOE: FASHION ROYALTY

Princess Diana wearing a Paul Costelloe suit. (Photo Credit: ncweb)

With a career spanning over five decades, Paul Costelloe is a true Irish fashion legend. Known for his exquisite tailoring and timeless designs, Costelloe has dressed everyone from Princess Diana, Laura Whitmore, Vogue Williams and Binky Felstead. His eponymous label embodies the essence of classic elegance, with a modern twist, earning him a loyal following around the world.

So, tell us, which Irish designers have inspired you?

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Antonia Sardone

Antonia Sardone is a new contributor to the University of Fashion. She is also a freelance fashion consultant, stylist and writer. Antonia Sardone graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Advertising Communications, Marketing and Fashion Journalism. She is an industry veteran having worked for WWD for over fifteen years and has strong relationships with designers worldwide. Today, Antonia Sardone continues to write reviews for WWD as well as work with many contemporary designers on a variety of projects from helping to re-launch their websites to writing their brand books. She enjoys raising her children to be creative individuals, as well as styling, writing and traveling.