There’s more to Irish design than fisherman sweaters and tweed caps, as last week’s preview of Showcase Ireland set out to prove to U.S. buyers.
In an effort to entice retailers across the pond to the boutique trade fair’s next edition, taking place Jan. 22-25 in Dublin, Showcase previewed a selection of 42 exhibitors during an invite-only cocktail reception for the first time at the Consulate of Ireland in New York City Thursday night.
More than 5,300 buyers from 24 countries attended last year’s edition of Showcase and the upcoming show—which will be its 41st—will expand to include TextIsle, a presentation of fashion and home textile collaborations designed and made in Ireland.
Brian McGee, market development director of the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCOI), pointed out that the show wants to change the misplaced perception that Irish design is synonymous with shamrocks.
“We tend to focus on our strengths—textiles, crafts, ceramics, glass. You’ll see a lot of candles and beauty products now, and wood, but the general theme running through it is a design aesthetic that’s very much built on quality of materials, quality of making,” McGee said.
Shane Cahill, deputy consulate general of Ireland in New York, agreed.
“Showcase really captures the unique identity of Irish design and craft,” he said. “It provides an unparalleled opportunity for creative collaborators to explore and be inspired by the richness and vibrancy of Irish fashion, jewelry, home and giftware.”
Among the 42 brands chosen for the preview (the main event will feature 450) were contemporary labels such as Bonagrew, which designs and makes linen and tweed ties and bowties in Ireland, and Stable, a recently launched line of scarves made from locally-sourced materials.
Also on show were Molloy & Sons, a family-run company that’s been weaving tweed since the 19th century, and Magee, which has been designing and weaving luxury fabrics for four generations and launched its own line of womenswear in 1998. Sumptuous blankets from Avoca Handweavers, Foxford Woollen Mills and Wild Cocoon made an appearance at the preview, too.
“Ireland has a long and rich tradition of craft throughout the ages,” Cahill said, “Reaching back over 5,000 years to the very early men and women who imagined, designed and made some of the first known crafts in Ireland, to 2,500 years ago to the Celtic craftwork which has become synonymous with Ireland, and to the present day and the uniqueness of Irish design and craft in Ireland which harnesses tradition, quality, materials and inspiration simply found nowhere else.”