Landscape and History as the Elemental Spark
Alison Conneely is a Clifden native. She is a designer of women’s apparel and handbags, stylist and now also a fashion lecturer in DID. She has her own eponymously titled design house, her stylist work has been featured in titles such as Image and Irish Tatler Magazine as well as the main newspapers.
And in 2015 she won the commission by the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland with the National Museum of Ireland to curate and design and exhibition of clothing to commemorate the centenary of 1916 Rising and the following War of Independence. In the Shuttle Hive Collection she used fabrics that evoked rebellion and modernity with many of the materials locally sourced and handcrafted. Its run at the National Museum was extended into April 2017.
(The Shuttle Hive Exhibition: Tn2Magazine)
Growing up I never, for a moment, considered a career in the creative realm. I was so much better at reversing my go-cart into really tight spots, than sitting down to draw.
And when I wasn’t parallel parking from dawn till dusk – I was in a sand pit.
A serendipitous encounter with a dreamer, in university, many moons ago, led to my finding design …
And when I found it I didn’t let go… a sublimely visceral moment.
I have been in the fashion business for 15 years now.
My influences are the poetry of Blake, the reveries of Plath, the veils of Connemara, I owe my mind to that.
Of late I have steeped myself in the work of Tim Robinson and Pina Bausch.
(Pina Bausch in Café Müller)
Pina Bausch was a German modernist choreographer and Tim Robinson, who I’m sure needs no introduction – a cartographer & writer.
His Connemara Trilogy has been a great source of inspiration, and my new collection coming this April ‘we are all exiles of the past’ has been inspired by his work Connemara: The Last Pool of Darkness, and Pina Bausch’s Café Müller, 1978.
I believe a sustainable living means a fair living wage for all, looking after your mental health, and caring for those around you – family or not.
If we can buy something from the local farmer's market instead of ‘Tesco’ do, if we can consume less, do – if we can help someone in any way – do, if we can be kinder to ourselves – do. All the little things add up. ….
I have been blessed to grow up in Connemara, my roots are anchored in landscape & mythology and when I need it, I can go there in my mind ….
As a designer I tend to simplify things, this I owe to Connemara … I tap into the stillness of the mountains & lakes, the imagined simplicity of life in bygone times and the mythical geology of place. I cannot imagine a new work that Connemara will not weave its way into…..
I source all my materials from small artisan mills, and where ever possible, from Ireland. All my collections are made here in Ireland and, are made to last a lifetime. All are hand finshed using natural materials – silks, linens, leathers & wools.
I mostly wear my own clothes but when I don’t I buy little and well. I don’t support the destructive wheel of fast fashion.
If I could change one thing about the way we live today it would be to think of the self as a node in the greater galaxy. All that we do has a knock on effect for good or bad. We must be kinder. The collective consciousness of such acts would make for a better world.
We can learn a lot from bygone era’s – I watched Inis Airc: Bás Oileáin last night.
‘On the twentieth day of October, 1960, twenty four people left Inishshark island off the Galway coast in a flotilla of boats bound for the Conamara mainland’.
What was left with me was the peoples sense of kindness and consciousness.
It is hard to tell how vital our traditional woven materials will be to the future of Irish fashion as we are in the realm of tech-fabrics. Irish tweeds & linens are infamous.
You have, in Donegal, a wonderful woolen mill ‘Molloy & Sons’, whose tweed I use in my collections. Their business is thriving 98% of their sales are from the international market, Japan in particular. And so this is very positive. I think if we can be innovative our materials will last well into the future, unless of course, a robot wipes us all out.
So we always have to ask because enquiring minds need to know!
Name one thing you are good at, one thing you could be better at and one aspiration.
To continue doing what I'm doing until my days come to an end in a peaceful studio in my homeland Faul.
Pictures courtesy of www.alisonconneely.com, Design Ireland, Tn2 Magazine, Tim Robinson book cover, Pina Bausch from petit-buttetin-fr