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The Irish Fashion Innovation Awards: a decade of design

Shane Cullen discusses this year's biggest celebration of Irish design and fashion

It would be a major understatement to say that Irish design, and the Irish fashion scene in general, have gone under something of a revolution over the past decade. Each season we look to London, Paris or New York for fashion week inspiration, yet there’s always something special about the works of Irish designers, and 2019 looks set to be Ireland’s biggest year for Irish design yet.

Celebrating ten years of supporting Irish design, the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards team are gearing up to host this year’s ceremony at Galway’s Galmont Hotel on 14th March. Hosting a press launch earlier this month at Dublin’s The Morgan Hotel, Golden Egg Productions gathered finalists and fashionistas to give a sneak peak of what to expect next month. If the press launch is anything to go by, it looks like it’s going to be an exciting spectacle of decadent design.

With up to seven award categories available, there’s something to reward all talents at the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards. These include Student Designer of the Year, Ones to Watch and Fashion Designer of the Year. This year it has been announced that there will be a new category called “The Perfect 10”, where an array of established Irish designers will feature their collections to close the show. The impressive list includes designer Carla Johnson, who has had her swim-wear collection featured at 2018’s New York Fashion Week.

As the final list of nominees have been announced, excitement now builds as we meet this year’s finalists. Nominated for the coveted Fashion Designer of the Year accolade at this year’s awards, Dublin-based designer Helen Hayes is a Grafton Academy graduate, who brings a touch of couture and signature ribbon to her handmade pieces. A strong contender in the category, she has previously won Fashion Student Designer of the Year at UCD Fashion Show back in 2016. Sharing the news on Instagram, Hayes expressed that she was “delighted and humbled” to have made the final cut. Hayes tells Otwo Fashion editor that she is equally nervous and excited to be a finalist: “I was so delighted when I first got the news that I was a finalist. Since then it’s ranged from fear that I won’t have everything finished to stage fright, but through it all I am honoured to show my work on such a platform.”


“This year it has been announced that there will be a new category called ‘The Perfect 10’, where an array of established Irish designers will feature their collections to close the show”

With every award comes a success story, and for last year’s overall Irish Innovation Awards Winner Sarah Murphy, that seems to be quite the case. Since winning the title last year, Murphy’s career continues to soar, recently sharing on Instagram that she has been busy designing gowns for the BAFTA and Oscar red carpets. Her self-titled collection, which is produced in Wicklow, is currently being stocked at Brown Thomas, Donnybrook’s Havana boutique and Emporium Kalu boutique in Kildare.

Away from the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards, Irish designers are making a name for themselves on runways in the UK and beyond. One of the designers that has caught the industry’s attention for many years now is Dublin-born designer Daniel Kearns. An NCAD graduate in Fashion Design, Kearns is currently the creative director for British label Kent & Curwen. He’s no stranger to the industry, having worked with Alexander McQueen for five years as well as working with other luxury brands including Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent. More recently, he’s worked closely with David Beckham for a collection.  

If you get a call from Lady Gaga’s team looking for a hat from your collection, then you must be doing something right. Margaret O’Connor, a designer and milliner from Clare, has had international appraisal for her courage to be bold with her designs. In 2013, O’Connor’s big break came after Lady Gaga wore one of her hats to an Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy exhibition in London. O’Connor labels her brand Notions, which she says incorporates inspiration from Irish history and encourages her wearers to always be bold.

Speaking to Otwo Fashion about the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards celebrating its ten year milestone, Managing Director, Patricia McCrossan had never anticipated such success.  “When I first had the idea of creating the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards back in 2009, I never imagined it would be such an unbelievable success. We support on average 45 designers across 6 categories each year. We have some amazing finalists that have gone on to showcase internationally like Una Burke and Carla Johnson of Mona Swims. Some have gone through the ranks from Student Designer, to Ones To Watch, then Designer of the Year. It’s a great time for Irish Design.”