Irish fashion designers, We Are Islanders launched their fascinating new label at the RHA gallery at the end of last year, with ‘Tidal’.
The new collection is steeped in traditional Irish fashion and heritage alongside the ever-accelerating rhythms of the modern living.
Ethical fashion – otherwise known as ‘eco-luxe’ – defines the We Are Islanders’ values of quality and lasting fashion. In this first collection there are one-off pieces that are dyed by the tidal water on the coastline of Dublin; We Are Islanders set off as they mean to go on.
We Are Islanders creates trans-seasonal collections that marry old crafts with new skills and celebrate the journey created by process without planning. With a fashion perspective that revolves around different ways of life and how we respond to our surroundings, creative director, Rosie O’ Reilly talks to us about the new label and what it means to, “Live on the island of Ireland or any island – this globe included.”
by Samia Ngeow
FLUX: Tell us about yourselves and the creative team.
Rosie O’ Reilly: Kate and myself founded re-dress 5 years ago and have ran creative projects promoting a better fashion industry since 2008. Deirdre came on board 2 years ago to spearhead the communication side of things, Kate works on production; the three of us are We are Islanders.
FLUX: Ireland is synonymous for green and for the folklore, how much or little of that do you identify with? How would you describe the Irish fashion and culture?
R: 4 seasons in 24 hours. Island People. Looking outward and not inward. Knowing your weaver, your knitter and your printer. Coastlines that collect and borrow as things pass.
FLUX: Does We Are Islanders resonate in a geographical location or a mental state?
R: Both .. If you stand by the sea long enough, something’s going to happen both physically and mentally. The name came about after I built a wooden boat (Currach) over a month on the East Coast. It’s sums up the ethos of the label ‘question & look outwards, harness old and new skills’.
FLUX: Yes, in one of your projects, you said the label tells stories of the society and environment of our time. Most designers make collections to reflect their character, showcasing their personal inspirations. What makes you look ‘outward’ and who or what is it that you want to tell a story for?
R: Questioning what you see makes you look outward. You never have all the answers but if you can tell a story or have even part of a narrative you can begin to understand. We don’t tell enough stories… if we did, maybe the environmental and social story of our time would be different!
FLUX: How would you describe the We Are Islanders aesthetic?
R: Tran-seasonal, layered, textured.
F: What was the concept behind your debut collection, Tidal?
R: To physically mark the rising tide.
FLUX: Sometimes black highlights room for experimenting with various shapes, textures, prints and layers. How did you see the monochrome palette and what was the desired impact or feel of it?
R: The palette put pressure on to examine silhouette, structure but also to manipulate fabric to achieve different textures. The starting point was fabric then the body. The challenge was manipulation without compromising aesthetic. Layering, quilting, and finishing techniques were used to make this happen. The label is tran-seasonal and climate relevant and the garments stand on their own or together. In the context of current global climate this is a necessity and the challenge was doing it without losing aesthetic control of shape and structure.
FLUX: The Bamboo Silk Bomber Jacket and Beetle Finished Linen Crop Top features gold linear prints placed in directions and positions that seem like they inform certain markings on the human body. What was the idea behind the prints?
R: Yes the print came from research on tide lines, which in their basic form represent a natural rise and fall. The idea was to use this aesthetic principle when placing the prints.
FLUX: I love the 4/704 piece. In the video, it shows the making to the presentation of the art installation, which was part of the process in creating one-off pieces for the Tidal collection (as the dresses were dyed in the process); but the experience of watching it happen was very much a performance in its entirety, grasping hold of the sonic, kinesthetic and visual elements of the waves and the seaside. Is that what you wanted the viewers to understand? Could you explain the video further?
R: Of Course .. nice description! Huge kudos to Heather Thornton (maker of the video) for a job brilliantly done. I was exploring rising sea levels & tide lines visually after Hurricane Sandy hit New York looking at the high tide mark left on the physical landscape but also exploring the socio-cultural mark left on the people and the city after the disaster. Dublin will experience this tidal & climatic change and 4/704 was an instillation to mark 4 of the 704 annual high tides that mainly go un-noticed in Dublin, representing apathy to natural systems that are fundamental to our day-to-day living. The installation consisted of 3 x 3m high self-contained dying units on Sandymount strand, each with a garment inside. Through a buoyancy system, the mark of the tide’s undulation was transferred onto the clothes over 48 hours, creating a ‘textural time lapse’. The high tide was marked and noticed. Clothing was used as medium for translating the mark to highlight social and environmental apathy in the fashion industry. We saw the crash of the high tide in Bangladesh this year where over 1200 people died producing clothes for us.
FLUX: You have a knack for creative direction, the video showed amazing scenography and sonic composition. Is there a sound and movement element that develops as you design or do they come after?
R: Always… the goal is to be multi sensory and therefore give a depth of meaning to projects and garments. To tell a story.
FLUX: The collection was inspired by your mother, is that true?
R: 4/704 the instillation I built for the Fringe Festival was inspired by her. She will always influence my aesthetic and she made sure I questioned everything.
FLUX: So the collection debuted at the RHA gallery, congratulations!
R: It went great, it was held in an incredible space and the collection exhibited beside some of the best Irish Artists, though it was only a pop up unfortunately.
FLUX: Is there anything you would like to share about next season?
R: Get 4/704 to another strand, dye from other tides, keep questioning.
For more on Irish Fashion designers, We Are Islanders see We Are Islanders Facebook