Original design and effortless style are a part of Ashford Castle’s DNA. Many of its very walls are layered with traditional Donegal tweed, designed especially for Ashford Castle.
To celebrate Ireland’s contribution to global style, we’ve profiled six of Ireland’s finest fashion designers. Each of these designers has made a big impact in the world of fashion, from designing outfits for royals and celebrities, to perfecting uniforms for airlines and creating the stylish items that decorate our homes.
Paul Costelloe’s designs are synonymous with quality, textures and fine materials, and his work has opened up the prestigious London Fashion Week for 12 seasons. Costelloe worked for fashion houses in Paris, Milan and New York before returning to his native Ireland to establish his own label in 1979.
Just three years later, he became the personal designer to Diana Princess of Wales and was responsible for many of the outfits that made her a style icon. As well as designing for royals and celebrities, Costelloe is known for designing a variety of iconic uniforms, including the British Airways uniform in 1992, which would continue to be used for the next 12 years; the Irish Olympic Team uniform for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens; and the uniforms of the wives of the European Ryder Cup Team from 2006 to 2011.
More recently, Costelloe became the event designer for British equestrian champion and royal Zara Philips and also the designer for Equestrian World Champion and Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin. Today, Costelloe designs everything from men’s and women’s fashion to eyewear, homeware and bags. His family-owned brand has become one of Ireland and the UK’s most recognisable design houses.
Louise Kennedy is known as the ‘uncrowned queen of Irish fashion’, famous for her sophisticated and elegant designs using intricate embroidery and embellishments.
Kennedy established her own label in 1983, and in 1989 she was commissioned by the first female president of Ireland, Mary Robinson to design an outfit for her inauguration ceremony. She went on to design for many royal families throughout the world, from Britain to Europe and the Middle East.
In the mid 90s, Kennedy was chosen to design the uniforms of Ireland’s national airline – Aer Lingus – the sophisticated green suits are still worn by the air crew today. She is also particularly well known for her bridal wear, and since 2013 has also created bag designs and her own signature fragrance.
Throughout her years as a designer, Kennedy has been the recipient of many awards including the Tipperary Person of the Year, Fashion Oscar of the Year in 1992, the Bird and the Bell award from The Ireland Funds of Great Britain, and Irish Designer ofthe Year 1985, 1989, 1991 and 1993. She was also part of the Great Britain campaign in 2014 along with celebrities such as former ‘Dragon’ and interior designer Kelly Hoppen, former Spice Girl and fashion designer Victoria Beckham and chef Jamie Oliver. Today, Kennedy’s designs have graced the pages of some of the world’s top fashion publications including Vogue, Tatler and Image.
Particularly famous for her exploration of knit and crochet, Lainey Keogh opened up her first shop in Dublin in 1984.
In 1997 she presented first major catwalk show at the London Fashion Week and in the same year was commissioned by fashion editor Isabella Blow to knit an evening dress for the 1997 Dress of the Year. At the time, UK Vogue declared that her line was ‘the jewel in the crown of London Fashion Week’.
Keogh’s designs have also been included in the Christian Dior haute couture collection and have been worn by a variety of celebrities including Marianne Faithful and Sophie Dahl.
Since 2001, Keogh decided to focus on only ethically sourced fashion and now only uses natural fibres and dyes. She also tries to preserve traditional Irish weaving and knitting techniques and donates a percentage of her profits to charity every year.
Originally from Hong Kong, John Rocha is based in Ireland and is one of the most successful designers for one of the UK’s leading department stores – Debenhams. His designs are known for their handcraft and beading embellishments.
Rocha launched his first label – Chinatown in the 80s, creating lines for Irish high street stores, and went on to design everything from homeware and jewellery to glassware. His contemporary collection of jewellery was launched in the UK in 2002 and he has also designed glassware for Waterford Crystal.
Rocha has won numerous awards for his work such as Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 1993, a CBE for his contribution to fashion in 202 and the ‘Special Award at the Ernst and Young Irish Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in 2008.
The Irish-based designer even moved into interior design, creating the interiors of the Morrison Hotel in Dublin, as well as luxury flats and buildings in Liverpool, Dublin, Birmingham and Budapest.
Today you can find Rocha’s designs in many of his own boutiques and across Debenhams department stores.
One of Ireland the UK’s hottest hat designers, over 60 of Treacy’s hats were worn at William and Kate’s Royal Wedding in April 2011. His sometimes ambitious and outrages designs have also been worn by many famous fashion icons from Lady Gaga and Madonna to Sarah Jessica Parker, Dita Von Teese and Grace Jones.
Treacy’s career began when he took one of his hats to Michael Roberts, fashion editor of Tatler in 1989 and his style editor Isabella Blow. Blow commissioned Treacy to make a hat for her wedding and even took him in to live with her and husband, becoming somewhat of his patron.
Treacy was awarded the title of British Accessory Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards five times during the 1990s and was also awarded an OBE for services to the fashion industry in 2007.
The designer’s hats have been included in some of the lines of the world’s most famous fashion houses including Alexander McQueen, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen, Givenchy Haute Couture and Chanel. You may also have seen some of Treacy’s creations in films such as the Harry Potter franchise and Sex and the City.
Described by The Guardian as ‘the Queen of prints’, Orla Kiely is known for her bold patterns, often inspired by nature such as leaves, fruit and flowers.
Kiely began her career in 1993 when she graduated with a Masters from the Royal College of Arts in London. During her final show at the college, Kiely’s range of hats was purchased by luxury London store Harrods. In 1994, Kiely and her husband opened their own company and soon afterwards presented at London Fashion Week.
Since then Kiely has designed for everyone from Marks & Spencer and Habitat to Debenhams and even Apple and Citroen. Today, her signature designs can be seen on everything from phone covers and candles to cushions, notebooks, aprons and even cars.
Kiely has won the UK Fashion Export awards twice and was also named Irish Tatler Woman of the Year in 2014. Her designs are favourites with Hollywood celebs and fashion icons including Kirsten Dunst, Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightly and Alexa Chung.
Selected by the BBC as one of the Best Young Artists under 25 working in the UK, Richard Malone is certainly one to watch in the future of fashion.
Malone graduated from Central Saint Martins college with a BA in Fashion Womenswear in 2014, where he was awarded the prestigious Grand Prix scholarship. His collection also opened the BA fashion press show.
Malone’s graduate collection was bought up by and stocked in Ireland’s leading luxury department store – Brown Thomas Dublin, part of the Selfridges group.
Since then, he has quickly risen to fame and his work has been featured in publications such as Vogue, Dazed, The Independent, The Irish Times and LOVE.
In 2015, Malone was also chosen to take part in Fashion for East SS16 – his London Fashion Week debut.
Getting the Ashford Style
A visit to the castle’s gift shop gives you the unique opportunity to adorn yourself with a piece of local craftsmanship. Whether it’s a jacket crafted from the Ashford Tweed, or a one-of-a-kind piece of locally produced Irish jewellery, Ashford is the destination for the stylish traveller.