Today, CREATE opens at Brown Thomas Dublin. A smart pop-up space on Level 2, fashioned from sustainable sleek birch ply and paper, in place from now until August 17, will feature 33 brands across ready-to-wear, shoes, accessories, millinery, jewellery, homeware, art and sculpture. The brainchild of Brown Thomas Fashion Buying Director Shelly Corkery and now in its eleventh year, the annual CREATE exhibition showcases and supports talented emerging Irish designers, giving them valuable retail exposure and boosting their brand’s profile.
The theme this year is “Push For Progress”, which reflects, says Shelly Corkery, “Our commitment to sustainability in our own business at Brown Thomas, and the future of fashion and retail. Every designer we interviewed for CREATE had to demonstrate sustainability in their manufacturing and business practice. What struck me was how this was second nature to all, going beyond mere awareness of sustainability to real values in action.” Designers were focused on carefully sourced Fairtrade cotton and low-impact natural fabrics like linen and wool, recycled and repurposed elements, zero waste, sustainability along the entire supply chain and ethical production. “This is such a positive thing to witness”, says Corkery. “Aoife Lifestyle handbags, for instance, are made using fishing nets and fabrics destined for landfill. Designer Silvana Lana McAdam works with small factories to create her Landa handbag collection, Mobius uses sustainable water-based inks and natural rayon, Fiadh scarves are woven from yarn sourced from small independent spinners. Begley and Bowie, a small, sustainable art and fashion brand founded in Kenmare and Basic Juju, highlighting the wellbeing of the planet with hand-embroidered slogans on sweaters and sweatpants in shades of ocean blue and forest green, are the embodiment of the new, slower and more sustainable approach to fashion.”
Designers also displayed the creativity and artistic passion Corkery was looking for. “Fashion is an intense business and 2020 was a particularly challenging year. I was excited by the designers’ commitment, their creativity, originality and ambition. The maturity of the younger designers really struck me, just how articulate and clear-thinking they were.” Barbara Bennet, just 26, transforms iconic Nike Air Force Air Max sneakers with one-of-a kind designs. Sneaker Cleaner, a business founded by Kevin Owens while still in secondary school, breathes new life into pre-loved sneakers. ToDyeFor by Johanna’s loungewear collection reverberates with mood-boosting bright colour.
A fine art sensibility infuses Clare O’Connor’s scarves, produced in small print runs, vibrant and painterly. Éadach, by illustrator Sara O’Neill, features silk kimonos and scarves in distinctive individual prints. Milliner Leonora Ferguson’s hats, worn by model and actress, Cara Delevigne, are handmade and utterly original. Yvonne Ryan has developed a strong signature geometric motif for her jewellery. Rebecca Marsden’s distinctive knitwear has earned her both national and international recognition. Talented graphic designers Jill & Gill have seamlessly made the transition to fashion design with a loungewear collection.
21 of the 33 brands are new to CREATE, with twelve returning to enjoy for a second time the powerful retail showcase. “Some brands have strong businesses already, some are building their businesses, some are just coming out of the blocks,” says Corkery. “We are looking to them all to grow and will help them to do so. There is a big marketing plan for CREATE – all designers will benefit. The more engaged with the process they are, the more designers glean and learn.”
Visitors to CREATE can browse and buy from all brands featured, including handbag and shoe designer Nicki Hoyne who has created exclusive colourways for CREATE, My Name is Ted luxury leather handbags and accessories, and Tidings scarves, by Niamh Gillespie, whose impressive CV includes working with Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith and Liberty of London.
Every year Corkery also awards the Designer to Watch Bursary. This year’s winner is Stephanie Finney, a final year fashion design student at NCAD. Stephanie will receive a bursary worth €4,000, and mentoring by the Brown Thomas executive team. Her collection, called “Easing Restrictions”, will be displayed at CREATE. Also included in this year’s CREATE will be last year’s bursary winner Una Curran.
When CREATE opens today, what will Corkery feel proudest of? “The fact that we open our doors to talented, exciting local designers, and invite them in and give them a start,” she says. “Because when we open our doors, other doors open for them.”
Visit www.brownthomas.com for more details on Brown Thomas CREATE: Push For Progress.
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