Ireland has not always been known for its fashion industry, but in reality, its textiles and fashion are an integral part of its heritage.
Wool has been woven in the country for millennia and archaeologists have found examples of woven products dating from as far back as 750BC. Over the years, the textile industry developed further, particularly in the 1700s with the introduction of widespread flax cultivation and the trend for linen products. Lace also started to be produced in the 1800s, and by the 1900s, textiles were seen as a way to support women in rural areas. Irish lace, in particular, is still in great demand, having been commissioned for various royal wedding dresses.
But what about contemporary menswear designers? And have any managed to crack the British and international market?
Edmund McNulty is a great example of an Irish menswear designer. A specialist in luxury knitwear, he works with alpaca and merino wool. His work is created in Drogheda Ed but is then exported throughout the world including various stockists in the UK. The company started in 1997 and Edmund studied textiles at the Galway Institute of Technology. He does create some ladies’ wear, but his focus was and remains predominantly on menswear, and his work has been largely underrated in the sector.
In terms of accessories, Weaver and Wilde is a unique company creating exquisite woven scarves for men. Founder Stacey McNutt comes from a family of famous weavers from Donegal and her experience and passion for the craft can be seen in the work she creates. Featuring yarns such as merino wool and cashmere, they create a variety of different scarves in various lengths and patterns and export them in England, and abroad. If you want to know how to look like a rich man, there is no better accessory than luxurious fabrics, handwoven and styled in a classic and authentic way. McNutt and her brand tick all the boxes.
But we can’t talk about Irish fashion designers, without giving a nod to Philip Tracey, the iconic hat designer. So famous and sought after are his creations that a total of 36 were worn at Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding. Orla Kiely who started by designing hats before moving into handbags has also become known globally for her unique, retro-inspired prints and designs.
The future of Irish Fashion
The Irish fashion market is expected to be worth around $1.12 billion by the end of this year. This includes growth at a CAGR of around 6.59%. If things stay on track, the sector could be worth more than $1.44 billion by the end of 2021. The key vertical is apparel, including clothing and accessories.
A key driver of these figures will be the menswear sector, and particularly menswear designed and created in Ireland. Products that incorporate traditional techniques, styles, and ideas and are marketed as “Made in Ireland” will continue to have significant value on the international market. As recent consumer trends show, people are craving authenticity and style which incorporates traditional or cultural elements. In these conditions, the Irish fashion industry has the potential to go from strength to strength.