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NCAD fashion students root collections in autobiography – The Irish Times


Emily O’Shea, a final-year fashion student at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), was heading to college on December 22, 2022, when she collided with an electric motorcycle and suffered catastrophic facial injuries. Not only did she suffer from fractured ribs, cheekbones, and orbital nerve damage, but her recovery from her injuries affected her studies and delayed her graduation.

Next month, O’Shea, who is from Co Cork, will finally graduate from NCAD with a collection that has special significance because she documented in fabric what she saw on her journey to college, as a playful way to overcome her fear of walking. And post-traumatic stress disorder.

The collection includes a selection of jersey t-shirts and joggers covered in digitally embroidered cotton organdy, capturing thoughts and snippets of what you hear on the street. There are similarly embroidered jackets, skirts and blouses.

“In much of my research I found things like trash bags, lottery tickets, bags of discarded prison property (she lives near Arbor Hill), love letters, shopping lists, and children’s drawings,” O’Shea says. “It was fun and therapeutic. I believe clothes should make you happy, and the accident made me realize that there is more to life.”

NCAD fashion students root collections in autobiography – The Irish Times

O’Shea joined 12 other NCAD graduates in June, each of whom has crafted individual narratives, many rooted in their own experiences. Eva Flanagan, for example, challenges the traditional association between pink and femininity and the way society views women’s bodies. For example, her dress, made of frothy pink tulle and embroidered with tiny pink nipples, has an intentionally darker side. Another dress, twisted, covered and digitally printed with parts of the female body, reflects ideas about size inclusivity.

NCAD fashion students root collections in autobiography – The Irish Times
NCAD fashion students root collections in autobiography – The Irish Times

Alex Nugent’s gorgeous black strappy coats and pink stripe bias-cut gowns were inspired by muscle and repressed sexuality. Elsewhere, Rachel Monaghan, the daughter of a builder, loves the details in old abandoned buildings and “seeing things that aren’t considered beautiful and making them beautiful,” she says.

NCAD fashion students root collections in autobiography – The Irish Times
NCAD fashion students root collections in autobiography – The Irish Times
NCAD fashion students root collections in autobiography – The Irish Times

Jennifer Williams’ laser-cut, heavily embellished, waterproof clothing is a marvel of handwork and detail. Another collection by Maria Patriarca is derived from her research on pigeons, whose feathers are reflected in layers of knitting, with everything made from sustainable or recycled materials. Karen O’Donoghue’s conceptual rainwear, using oilcloth and roller-drapery fabrics, is linked to the memory of an aunt and inherited memorabilia. Abigail Heslip used the scallop shell as a starting point to create a modern, luxurious and elegant wedding collection.

These are just a few of the ideas that drive this year’s talented graduates. “There is a great connection between theory, research and studio practice,” says teacher Linda Byrne. “They are passionate about their work and experimentation. There are issues around gender, diversity and inclusivity, as well as an awareness of the fashion industry’s impact on the environment, both locally and globally. Knitting and embroidery are very strong this year, and there is a big focus on fabric manipulation.”

Some of the students have worked on projects with Cappagh Hospital on accessible clothing for young children with mobility issues “so they are exposed to medical design, which opens up the field for them,” notes Angela O’Kelly, head of body and environmental design at NCAD. It reaches their minds.” Almost all students have benefited from Studio+ (optional year of study) and Erasmus exchange programs to broaden their experiences.

“They have to find their points of difference and they have to make their mark,” O’Kelly says. “But they are equipped to transcend seasons and will be able to adapt. They work incredibly hard and are very productive. They pay particular attention to finishing and sizing as well as working on conceptual ideas. Many of them also make shoes, headwear and bags.

The graduate show will be held June 5 and is open to the public June 7-16 at NCAD.



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