One of the more ambitious ventures in Irish fashion is taking place inWaterford at the Lismore Atelier. A social enterprise project that began a year ago to help revive manufacturing skills in Ireland, it is located in a former library building in the historic town. The workshop is now humming with state-of-the-art machines assembling clothes – cutting, sewing, overlocking, buttonholing, hemming, pressing and finishing.
Training in production and sewing skills is also given thanks to a €80,000 investment from the local council and the education and training board (ETB). Managing all this activity is Limerick School of Art and Design graduate Maggie Danaher, who lives locally.
The results can be seen in Mary Gregory’s 34-piece autumn/winter collection which has impressed all who see it for the quality, not just of its fabrics but its finish and attention to detail. An international Irish stylist based in Italy could not believe the collection had been made in Ireland, when viewing it on a recent visit.
Even calling it an “atelier”, the French word for workshop or studio, attests to its commitment to be as good internationally as any sought-after facilities inFrance or Italy. Gregory and her husband, Aidan McCarthy, a skilled tailor who worked for the fashion designer Patrick Howard in Dublin for 10 years in the 1970s, researched methods and machinery used by the top Italian companies who make for brands such as Gucci and Stella McCartney, with the aim of reproducing them in Ireland.
“I wanted to prove it could be done here,” says Gregory. “We can make clothes to this standard but it takes time, skill and investment,” she says. The plan is to attract other Irish designers to the facility which they hope will be ready by next year when a skilled production manager and sample and production machinists can provide the requisite top class service – presumably at competitive prices.
Currently Lismore Atelier has a tailor who samples for Victoria Beckham and Comme des Garçons who is brought in on a contract basis along with a production machinist. Gregory describes Lismore as the perfect place for a designer to be completely focussed and more accessible than places in Italy.
Gregory, who started making clothes at the age of six and developed a successful career in the 1980s and 1990s, was known for the strong visual effect of her designs. She moved with McCarthy to Lismore more than a decade ago and concentrated on rearing their two sons, restoring a 19th-century house in Villierstown while also working as visual and design director of the Maison & Chateau group. Her new collections remain true to her aesthetic of form and fabric with an emphasis on architectural shapes with embellishment and detail. The fabrics are luxurious and include grosgrain, double crepe, wool and silks with notable finesse of finish.
The collection is now in the International Designer Rooms in Brown Thomas where Gregory will be on hand on Saturdays to show it or by appointment.Read more at:http://www.marieaustralia.com/cocktail-dresses | www.marieaustralia.com/short-formal-dresses